Memories of Ichiro Tonai, 1924 - 2001
 
 
 
Family Links
Condolences from Japan.
Tonai family members can look at the online family tree.
Rosalyn's story, A Daughter's Lesson, about her dad that appeared in the Nichi Bei Times, right before Father's Day, 2001.

Biography of Ichiro Tonai

Ichiro was born to Gengoro and Toyone Tonai on September 10, 1924, in San Pedro California.  He passed away on May 29, 2001 in West Hills, California.

He had an older sister, Mary, a younger sister Rumi, and two younger brothers, Minoru and Yutaka.

His father was a fisherman until 1926 when he opened a produce stand with partner Kenichi Shintani in Wilmington.  They became successful and opened produce concessions in several grocery stores in the Wilmington, San Pedro and the Long Beach area.  Ichiro recalled that his mother and father were always working and were particularly busy during the peach and strawberry seasons.

In 1934, his family visited relatives in Japan.  Ichiro and Mary remained with his Aunt Sakae and Uncle Shinji Ohtsubo and his maternal grandmother in Tokyo.

He excelled in art, math & sports and rose to the top of his class.  Upon graduation, he went to Tokyo Furitsu cho I'chu-go, a prestigious No.1 Middle School.  Under the tutelage of his Uncle, he also became a high-ranking kendo student.

While Ichiro and Mary were in Japan, World War II started, severing communications with their family back home.  It was only through the newspaper that Ichiro had learned that his father was on the list of suspected Isseis rounded up and sent to Missoula, Montana.  The rest of his family was sent to a concentration camp in Amache, Colorado where they received two letters from Japan stating that all were in good health and that Ichiro had matriculated to Yokohama Technical College, majoring in  Engineering.   However, in the last year of the war, fire bombings came as close as a block from their home and an incendiary bomb fell in a ditch nearby but did not explode.

1948 was the year Ichiro returned to Los Angeles.  In order to pursue his career in engineering, he first enrolled at John Francis Polytechnic High School to become more proficient in English.  He then was able to attend Los Angeles City College and finally transferred to UCLA.  There he was elected into the Tau Beta Pi Engineering  Honor Society and graduated in 1953.

He spent a year in postgraduate work and enjoyed a stint at Robinson's to develop one of the first department store programs for centralizing inventory and sales.  He then joined Telecomputing Corporation in Van Nuys as an Engineer.  Subsequently, he was hired by Computer Controls Corporation in West Los Angeles.  As a systems engineer, Ichiro enthusiastically devoted endless hours at CCC. He believed his efforts would develop a machine that would revolutionize the world.  He was among the pioneers, in the private sector, to create the first computers. This company later became a part of the Honeywell Corporation.  While presenting this new innovation at a conference at the Sheraton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, he was befriended by the hotel manager, Guy Taylor.  Guy would eventually introduce Ichiro to Grace Ito of Stockton, his sister-in-law. They married on April 19, 1958.

Ichiro and Grace had four children, Richard, Rosalyn, Audrey and Dana.

In 1968, Ichiro was selected to go to Japan, with his family, to become a manager of  Engineering Liaison at their joint venture, Yamatake/Honeywell, instituting product liaison procedures.  After 3-1/2 years, the division moved to Framingham, Massachusetts and in 1972 he was given an opportunity to return to Los Angeles as a Senior Scientist at Hughes Aircraft Corporation.  At Hughes he helped develop the guidance system for the missiles on Trident nuclear submarines and the AAMRAM until his retirement in 1986.

After a successful career as a systems engineer, he shifted his attention to the use of the personal home computer.  His interests ranged from researching his family history, translating technical documents and oral histories for others, and working on several dental patents.  He also taught himself computer programming and enjoyed writing sophisticated algorithms for use in his sonís scientific field and also game programs for his grandson.

Ichiro felt fortunate to be able to see his children graduate from college and go on to successful and productive lives of their own.  It was especially joyful for him to have been able to welcome three grandchildren:  Kiyoshi, Jessica, and Rhiannon.

(biographical information on Grace Tonai is in progress)