(“Famed [TaB bottle] L.B. designer dies in hit-and-run,” Long Beach Press Telegram, November, 2004– by Tracy Manzer)
LONG BEACH â€” When Jana Yoshizumi was about 12 years old, she lost contact with her father following her parents’ separation.
Several years ago, the father and 28-year-old daughter reconnected and forged a strong bond that included phone calls several days a week and many trips to her dad’s Long Beach home.
“It was like I was 12 all over again,” Jana said Tuesday.
“It’s hard for me to accept that he was taken from me again, and I’ll never get a second chance this time.”
Jana lost her father on Sunday after he was killed in a hit-and-run crash on the Westside. Kenji Yoshizumi was trying to cross Santa Fe Avenue in the crosswalk at Burnett Street at 9:36 p.m. when the driver of a dark-colored Dodge Ram pickup, which was traveling north on Santa Fe, slammed into the 84-year-old man and left him for dead.
Kenji, who in the 1950s designed the TaB soda bottle for the Coca-Cola Company and the Alberto VO-5 hair treatment package, was rushed to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. He was first listed as a John Doe. Emergency room staff worked hard to treat his many injuries, including massive head trauma and multiple leg fractures, his daughter said.
The extent of his injuries proved too great, and the retired graphic artist and native of San Pedro was pronounced dead later that evening. Investigators learned his name after finding his identification in his pocket. When they provided hospital staff with the information, the hospital found that they had information for Kenji on file from an angioplasty in May. That information included his daughter Jana’s phone number, and she was called early Monday with the terrible news.
“Detective Watt was very nice; he told me that the chances are kind of slim that we’ll find his killer,” Jana said Tuesday as her voice quaked. “I want to publicize this case. Hopefully the person will turn himself in, or somebody who knows the person will call police or the auto body shop will call police.”
“It’s so horrible. I know my father would have wanted â€¦ justice to be served.”
Slim chances or not, Jana will not rest until she has done everything she can to find the hit-and-run driver. She has called all of the auto body shops in the Long Beach area she can find to beg for their help, and hopes that if the community learns who her father was, it will come forward to help police in their investigation.
His retirement years were calm and content, his daughter said. At 84, he was extremely health conscious and would track every gram of fat that he consumed. He kept his house himself, and did his own grocery shopping and other errands.
“He was an independent man, he lived by himself,” Jana said. “His life was very simple at the end, but he enjoyed it.”
During his career, Kenji had been an accomplished graphic arts designer who attended the Chouinard Art Institute after graduating from high school in San Pedro. His father born and reared in Shingu-shi, Wakayama-ken, Japan was a self-taught graphic artist who worked on ships. Growing up in that environment helped Kenji decide at the age of 6 that he too would be an artist.
His work over the years earned him numerous awards, including four honors for projects he entered in the American Institute of Graphic Arts Competition in 1958. The April 1969 issue of Industrial Design featured a cover story titled, “Fifteen Years of Industrial Design,” in which Kenji’s design for the Alberto VO-5 hair treatment package was cited as one of the outstanding designs for the year 1958.
Copies of his designs have been showcased in both London and Japan and the consumer product packaging he created spanned a broad spectrum, including his design of the TaB soda bottle in the 1950s.
“Back then there were no computers, he sketched and designed everything by hand,” Jana said.
Along with his accolades, Kenji also weathered trying moments in his life with great dignity. In 1942, when Japanese nationals and American citizens of Japanese descent were forced from the West Coast into internment camps, Kenji and his family were sent to Utah.
After the war, his first wife and daughter died within a month of each other, and he thought his life was over, Jana said. Then he met Jana’s mother and had two more children, a son and a daughter. But the separation of his second marriage tore Kenji from his family once again.
“My father was a good man,” Jana said. “If he saw something happen that was wrong, he called the police. It’s only right that someone do that for him now.”
Anyone who saw the crash, or has information about the hit-and-run driver and the pickup which sustained major front end damage and was a newer model with tinted windows and chrome rims is asked to call Accident Investigations Detective Brian Watt at (562) 570-5520.
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