Yoshie Karoutsos ✵ 1944-2000

Yoshie Karoutsos

Name at birth:  Yoshie Sakai
Date of birth:  15-03-1944
Place of birth:  Sakaiminato Japan
Date of death:  14-01-2000
Place of death:  Vancouver, Canada
Resting place:  Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Burnaby, BC, Canada
Submitted by:  Tom Karoutsos (



Yoshie, Aspasia Karoutsos 1944 – 2000
Yoshie was born on March 15th 1944 in Sakaiminato Tottoriken Japan as the second child to the Sakai family who had lived on the same property for eight generations. Japan was then at the most gruesome point of the war; food was very scarce and the family was fed only a small ration of potatoes and wheat. Even on this diet, young Yoshie managed to win an award as the healthiest pupil in her school based on attendance. She was blessed with perfect health until she was 52 years old.
While still a teenager, Yoshie started learning traditional Japanese arts such as samisen and Dance with Yasue; her older sister. She excelled at samisen and soon acquired a teacher’s certificate. By her high school years, Yoshie was giving samisen lessons to doctors and high school teachers at her home. She made her debut playing at the samisen symphony while still a high school student; a first in Japan.
Yoshie excelled at sports such as volleyball and basketball. She captained her basketball team to winning their regional competition and thus participating in the all-Japan national tournament.
At a Japan-wide entrance examination for the top Japanese universities she placed fifth in the country. (As placements were not released, this was only mentioned to her older sister.) She attended Kyoto Women’s University where her older sister was also studying.
After graduating from the KWU, Yoshie worked at her parents’ food factory and learned Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), tea ceremony, sewing and kimono making. Her determination made her master the art of Ikebana. She attained a teacher’s level in sewing as well. She even surpassed her teachers.
Yoshie’s grades were always near or at the top of her class. She was elected class representative and president of her student council.
At home, Yoshie took care of her ill mother, taking her place in caring for her younger siblings. She cooked, made uniforms and oversaw their studies attending graduation in her mother’s place. She made wedding dresses and maternity dresses for her friends. She took care of everyone around her.
When Yoshie came to Canada in October 1972, her goal was to study English and return to Japan. Her husband to be Tom had arrived in Vancouver a few months earlier. They met on Valentine’s Day in 1973 at the bus stop on Oak and Broadway after a day at the old King Edward School where they had been learning English.
At Tom’s suggestion, Yoshie applied and on September 25th 1973 obtained Canadian Immigrant status. She was lucky to have two great cousins living in Vancouver (Mr. and Mrs. Watanabe) who sponsored her. This allowed her to get a full time job as a housekeeper at the Hotel Vancouver and live on her own in a small suite on West 10th. She also started saving money for travel and the return trip back to Japan.
Before returning to Japan in October 1974, Yoshie spent most of September traveling throughout the United States, writing or calling Tom every day about her experiences. She was most fond of New York City, which she described as big …like Tokyo and was especially impressed by the Metropolitan Museum. On the way back she took a train ride through the Canadian Prairies and experienced Winter-peg even for a short time.
Her trip to Tokyo was also to be unique; she went by ship spending two weeks at sea. Her plan was to work in Tokyo putting her newly acquired language skills to use. When she arrived, she found a depressed economy where employees were expected to work until 7 or 8 PM everyday without overtime pay. This, in addition to the loneliness of being away from Tom made her consider returning to Vancouver. Tom in the meantime tried but failed to forget about Yoshie so the two reunited in Vancouver in March 1975. On September 18th of the same year Tom and Yoshie made their vows to live together for ever after. Yoshie was taught Christianity, was baptized taking the name Aspasia and the two had a Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony.
Yoshie’s priority was always with her family. She was very reluctant in allowing others to baby-sit her children. Tom recalls Yoshie always being anxious to leave parties early as a result.
After the marriage, the highlights of Yoshie’s life were the birth of her two children; Irene (Noriko) in December 1977 and Elliott I. (Masaki) in May 1979.
As time went by, Yoshie continued practicing traditional Japanese arts such as Samisen, Japanese Tea Ceremony, and started studying Koto. She was also able to teach Samisen and sewing as well. A common sound often heard in the Karoutsos home was Yoshie and her sewing students chatting and socializing while working on their sewing projects. In an effort to motivate her students, Yoshie loved to teach in her most elegant outfits and before the students arrived she would always show herself off to her family as to say “ta da!”
In 1991 Yoshie traveled to Europe with all of her family. She was very pleased to meet some of Tom’s relatives for the first time and was very impressed by the Parthenon in Athens, the Aegean Sea and the Louvre in Paris.
In addition to sewing and playing instruments, Yoshie loved golf. She was a member of the Mcleery Women’s Golf Club where she made many friends. Not feeling that a car was necessary, Yoshie often walked to the golf course with her clubs in tow. She looked at golf, as many do, as a challenge and achieved the goals she set for herself. With determination and perseverance she first broke 100 and then 90, a feat she was truly proud of. Yoshie’s golfing career culminated with her winning the Marg Humphries Trophy in 1998.
Yoshie often worked till the early morning hours in her sewing room making bedding supplies for a very high quality bedding supplies store in Vancouver. She was close to her family in Japan but especially her younger sister Hiroe for whom she made many dresses. Hiroe was always amazed at how promptly she received her dresses.
Despite keeping herself busy Yoshie also found time to read, and even watch TV. Her favourite magazine was Bunke Sunju which she used to buy by the case at the annual Japanese festival. She was also fascinated by the Royal families of Japan and England and was always willing to debate if Charles would marry Camilla or if Princess Masako would have a baby.
Her favourite TV shows were I Love Lucy, Colombo and the Rogers Cable Japanese program. Yoshie and Tom probably watched every Colombo episode ever made and some more than once. She was interested in the Sumo results, the Japanese high school baseball championships, and the Red vs. White year-end song competition. More recently Yoshie developed an interest in Antiques and used to watch the Antique Road Show. If she had won her battle, her plan was to start furnishing their house with antiques.
She enjoyed the performing arts such as Opera not only for the beautiful melodies and stories but also for the environment. She loved being among well- dressed people who had an appreciation for fine arts.
Yoshie’s story- book life was unfortunately cut short by cancer; the disease was first diagnosed in October 1996. It was a tumor on her Ampula of Vater, an area very close to the pancreas. Due to the size and structure of the tumor (under 1 cm), she was deemed as a non-emergency case and this plus the medical system’s overload resulted in her operation taking place in February 1997. (Her operation was scheduled and then cancelled at least on two occasions. On one of them she was actually told of the cancellation only after arriving at the hospital.) Still the operation seemed successful as biopsies at that time showed no spread of the disease. Yoshie recovered and returned to a 100%.
In October 1998, Yoshie went into emergency as a result of a pancreatitis attack. These attacks lasted until the end of 1998 and it was only then when a cat scan showed a spot on her lymph node and on her liver. Her original surgeon requested a biopsy. Although the results of the biopsy were positive (i.e. showed presence of metastatic cancer) they were not communicated to anyone; Yoshie, her GP and her family assumed that no news was good news. As a result Yoshie continued to seek non-cancer treatments for cancer-caused symptoms such as diarrhea. During this time, Yoshie was able to enjoy her life without the thought of cancer. She spent a memorable week with her sister golfing and enjoying the unusually great weather in April of 1999.
On June 30th 1999 at the suggestion of her general practitioner, Yoshie went to see the original surgeon who then broke the ugly truth; her cancer had come back. She was told that most patients succumb within a year. Yoshie went to the BC Cancer Agency where she received two protocols of chemotherapy but to no avail. On November 17th 1999 she was told the dreaded “there is nothing more we can do for you!”. Still her faith in divine powers and the promises of some alternative medicines continued to give her hope.
A vivid dream which gave her hope was that of two angel-like women wearing white telling her in very confident voice: “Daijobu, Daijobu!” Translated: “It’s OK! Don’t Worry”. Yoshie took this to mean that she would be cured through some divine intervention.
Although she gave up hope during the December 1999 holiday season, she was able to enjoy one last Christmas with her family and took pleasure in decorating the Christmas tree. Yoshie had kept her disease a secret from overseas relatives and friends and not wanting to upset them during a happy and busy time of the year, she broke the bad news on January 3rd, 2000. They came to her side immediately. As if it were her last expenditure of energy she was able to see and talk to all of her relatives.
Yoshie accomplished all her goals in life but would have liked to see her children graduate and marry and wanted to see her grand children. Yoshie was not afraid of dying; She was afraid of experiencing unbearable pain while her sickness took its course but thankfully she did not suffer. She passed away peacefully, at her home at 10:55 AM on January 14th 2000. Perhaps the dream’s meaning was that she would not suffer and that she should have not been afraid.
As if to time her passing, she gathered her family and quietly drew the curtain on her life. Yoshie will be remembered forever as someone who lived her life to the fullest extent, a woman of quality, integrity and good taste.

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