Below are some of the kind words we've received about my mother. Please feel free to send me any recollections, anecdotes, condolences or other comments you'd like to share on this page.
With a great regret and profound lament, I have heard the loss of your mother, Prof. Emeritus Yoko McClain. I can well understand the grief and sorrow afflicting you and your family, but I cannot adequately express my feeling.
I have met Prof. Yoko McClain at the Roppongi in Tokyo on the 6th of May in this year. This was the first time and the last time to meet her for me. We have been talking with the members of Kyoto Soseki Society including Tanji-san merrily and plentifully on the Soseki so much. Yoko-san was so wonderful that I had the best impression of her at a glance. I will have never forgotten Prof. Yoko McClain in memory of her with nice snap shots in the members of Kyoto Soseki's at Roppongi.
-- Toshio Hiraoka Professor Emeritus University of Tsukuba
When I was in my junior year at U of O, I decided to take Japanese just because it seemed interesting. Your mother was the instructor, and her classes changed my life. I apparently had a natural facility with Japanese, but I might never have realized my full potential had it not been for your mother, who was perhaps the most demanding – and the most caring – teacher I have ever met. After taking her classes, I changed my major from geology to Asian Studies. Following my graduation from U of O, I spent a few years in Japan and then went on to graduate school (in Japanese History) at Stanford, from which I obtained my Ph.D. in 1989. I have been teaching for over twenty years at a university in Tokyo, where I live with my Japanese wife and three children (well, only one child now, as the older two are already out of the house). None of this would have happened had I not had the dumb luck to enroll in your mother’s class back in 1977. I kept in touch with her through the subsequent decades by letter, email, and the occasional meeting in Tokyo during one of her visits. I will miss her very much.
Please know that your mother touched the hearts and minds of many, many individuals during her long and productive life. The world is a far better place for her, and I, for one, will be forever grateful for what she did for me.
-- Bruce Batten, Ph.D. Professor of Japanese History J.F. Oberlin University, Tokyo
My husband Stephen and I had the honor and pleasure to know your mother and we were deeply saddened to hear about her passing away. We are currently working and residing in Tokyo. Every year at around this time, I got email from your mother about her plan to visit Japan and kindly inviting us to get together for dinner. We always had such a great time together. A few days ago, I just thought of her, I wonder when Yoko sensei is coming to Tokyo this year.....then I realized she won't be back any more. I still cannot believe I won't be able to see her again. Her precious memories wil live in my heart forever.
-- Masumi Timson
I just returned from a two week vacation and came home to be told of the terribly sad news that your wonderful mother has passed away. I am so sad to know that I won't be able to hear her cheerful, genki voice again. Yoko was such a special person and I will miss her dearly. She is one of the very first people that I met when I came to the University of Oregon and has remained a good friend these last three years.
-- Deidre Sandvick Director of Development Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
My departed wife and I met Yoko on a cruise to Norway some years ago, and managed to visit with her at her home in Eugene, a number of times. It goes without saying, the world is poorer without Yoko's lovely presence. I know how much I admired her.
I must share a story of Yoko, however. We "met" in a rather strange way. Our tour group was in Iceland, viewing one of their waterfalls, when suddenly, a violent wind tore through (Iceand is infamous for these sudden, very dangerous winds) and Yoko was knocked down and started to roll on the ground. I was able to get to her, and held her down until the winds died down...as suddenly as they had started. Yoko's smile was radiant, and she was ready to go a moment later! After that, every time there would be inclement weather, we would see Yoko in her yellow rain suit and radiant smile. She charmed everyone!
-- Dan Gayman
I was a student of hers as an undergraduate at UO in the early 1990's, and remember fondly the 5th year Japanese class she taught where we read modern texts, particularly Soseki, in Japanese and translated them into English. It was a small class, partly due to the advanced nature of the material but more likely due to the scheduled time (8:30 a.m. - Sensei's choice). The five of us students would be yawning and Sensei would chastise us as she smiled and handed out the next quiz.
Sensei also helped me in my graduate coursework at UO in 2000-2001 when I was working on my Master's degree in Japanese literature. I was writing a paper about Uno Chiyo and McClain Sensei gave me wonderful advice and suggestions for resources.
What will remain with me was her energy and zest for life. Whenever she had a trip to Japan planned, she would tell us about her training regimen of walking 72 blocks around downtown Eugene at a brisk pace. She had to get ready for those Tokyo streets! I could only hope to have that much energy today.
-- Andrea Winter Erickson
I just had a lovely visit with your mother last Saturday: she seemed her usual bright, lively, friendly self...such a wonderful person.... [M]y acquaintance with your mother goes far, far back.... On some levels, Yoko was ageless.
-- Esther Jacobson-Tepfer Professor Emeritus, Department of Art History
I am deeply shocked to hear about the sudden death of Yoko-sensei and I would like to offer my deepest condolences. She was such a cheerful person and was always so considerate to me; moreover, she was like my mother in Eugene. Her passing will not only leave a void in our lives but in the hearts of everyone who knew her. Yoko-sensei's memory will always remain deep within my heart.
-- Fumiko Sekiguchi
McClain sensei has been the closest friend from my days at UO. I have kept in touch throughout the years since my first year at there. It was fortuitous that just one month or so back I wanted to hear her voice and so I spoke to her over the phone, not realizing it would be the last time to speak to her. She had just told me that she can still jump rope 20 times, so the news came to me as a shock. She meant a lot to me in many, many ways. She was like a mother to me in Eugene because she took care of me and helped me whenever I needed it. She even extended her helping hand to my cousin and friends when they visited me in Eugene. I was fortunate to know her and had such a warm friendship with her for 21 years. I learned so many things from McClain sensei. The first thing I learned from her was that she always looked at the positive sides of unfortunate events. I still remember vividly an accident of flooding from a burst water pipe burst while I was housesitting for her. I was very, very sorry for what happened while I was out with my friendship family on Christmas. Do you know what she said to me later? She first thanked me to find it early enough to save her collection of woodblock prints downstairs. And she said to me that she was quite happy with getting a brand new carpet. She never complained to me that I wasn't at home at the time the water pipe burst. I have so many wonderful memories with her - our trip to Oregon coast, my wedding, her visit to Yufuin, Oita, Japan where my parents were and to me in NYC, my family's staying with her at her home and many, many more. I always remember her kindness and smile that made me happy.
-- Ikuko Serita
I have received unbelievably sudden sad news about your mother, Yoko-sensei. I pray for the peaceful repose of Yoko-sensei, a wonderful teacher and lifelong scholar. It was a great pleasure and privilege for me, while in Eugene, to be friends with your mother. She was always with a warm smile which will live in my heart for ever.
-- With deep thanks and respect, Shigeru Takabayashi
We, too, always thought she would outlive us and enjoy life until the age of at least 100. She was a remarkable and wonderful woman.
We have no words now to tell you how much we treasured her friendship and help as a teacher of japanese. She was a valued and dear friend. I know how much she will be missed by so many.
-- Don and Alice Harrington
Your mother has had a tremendously big influence in my life. I would not be where and who I am now if I hadn't been fortunate enough to be a student of hers at the University of Oregon in the 80's and at Waseda University in 1985. I am forever grateful to her for the guidance and friendship she has given me. I am also very grateful that I was able to meet her several times in Japan over the last several years, after a blank of about 20 years. I will miss her dearly.
-- Raoul Breugelmans Associate Professor Department of International Medical Communications Tokyo Medical University
Your mother was a wonderful person and we so much enjoyed her company and admired all the things she did. We just wish we hadn't lived so far away so we could have seen more of her.
We used to sit in the Student Union and have coffee so often. We even visited her when she was at Waseda U in Tokyo. She had the first heated toilet seat we'd ever seen (or heard of). We were also lucky to be able to attend an honoring ceremony for her at the U. of O., also years ago. Those are some of the fond and fun memories we have of your mother.
Anyway, I did find out that George's folks were co-sponsors for her stay in the U.S. as well as the family in Portland. Also, she visited us here in Kona and even asked us to attend a wedding of a former student of hers.
-- Aloha, Marian and George Wilkins
She was such a great person but so sensitive and thoughtful to others, even to a person like me. I had met her personally just a few times but still she talked to me so friendly with her wonderful smiling face when I had the opportunity to meet her in public. I very often remember her.
-- Mitsuki Dazai
She was an inspiration for me in so many ways – first and foremost as a champion of yours. I also enjoyed seeing your Mom every time we passed through your Spring Blvd home. She also inspired me with my violin – I always seemed to be the dark sheep in our string ensemble group of friends – never had the raw talent nor the practice regimen of others – but Yoko always offered encouragement and a gentle push whenever needed. And then when my interest in things Japanese started to grow – your Mom was again there to encourage and support and offer insight and guidance.
-- Doug Smith
It was with great sadness that we read about your mother's passing. I arrived at my mother's and she was in tears as she shared the email you had sent. My mother and I visited Yoko this past August. She served us a wonderful meal and proudly showed us her remodeled kitchen. It had been years since we had been to her home in Eugene.
Mom and I often talked about the McClains who were such good friends to her and to my father. She kept in touch with Yoko all these years and the rest of the family passed away. Mom comes to Oregon every summer to be with family. This year we went to the beach for a week and I told her we should stop and see Yoko. We are so glad that we did. She was a great person. I am glad to have known her.
-- Kay Higley and Phillis Copeland
Chris and I are saddened to know of Yoko's passing but thank you for letting us know with your beautiful letter. You have expressed so much that is consoling to us as well.
I was privileged to have known your mother for so many years, beginning at the U of O, and often continued by the wonderful letters she wrote over the years.
-- Helen Bersie
First, let me offer my condolences on the sudden and tragic loss of your mother. She was such a fine, warm, interested, and interesting human being. I always enjoyed visiting with her. Yoko is the one who got me my teaching job in Japan in 1994, a wonderful experience for which I will always be grateful.
And of course you know of the long and close relationship she had with my parents for about half a century, starting from the time she was a student receptionist at the Art Museum when my dad was director. Later when Mom and Dad [Ellen and Wally Baldinger] were doing art appraisals in their retirement, Yoko helped them countless times with translations of various Japanese inscriptions. They always had a very warm place in their hearts for your mother--and her family.
Along with the personal losses to all who knew and loved her, Yoko's passing is also a big loss to the academic and social communities in Eugene.
Again, I send you my sympathy in the loss of your mother and my own sorrow over the loss of a very special person.
-- Marna Broekhoff
I want you to know that I often recall the lovely summer months my students and I spent with your mother and father back in 1965. We all had rooms at the Shimboya ryokan in Kanazawa and spent much time talking about art and architecture.
Yoko was a strong and steady influence upon us all and is remembered with great fondness.
-- Richard Smith
It saddens me a great deal to hear that Yoko san passed away. She had been like my close sister/aunt and friend and one of the people who made me proud to be Japanese.
-- Junpei Sekino
I've realized again how great contributions she made to the UO, the field of Japanese language and literature, and her colleagues. I'm very proud I met her while I was at UO.
-- Tetsuo Harada
Yoko is one of the people I most admired, and I already miss her smile and friendship. I will treasure the memories of the time I spent with her. I feel lucky to know her.
-- Alisa Freedman Associate Professor, East Asian Languages University of Oregon
I will always remember your mom, especially her vivacious, upbeat and spunky character. It was just a few short months ago that we talked about politics (including Jon Stewart), her trips to Japan, her need for such a large refrigerator/freezer, etc. Spending time with her always brought a smile to my face.
-- Alex Cheng
I was so saddened by an unexpected sad news about your mother's sudden departure. As you mentioned in the announcement, everyone has expected her to be around us until she reaches 100 year old.
I truly enjoyed our sometimes "occasional", sometimes "frequent" email exchanges. When I did not hear from her more than 3 or 4 days after sending her email message, I started worrying about her-well being because she usually responded right away. Since I received a sad news, I read our last 4 message exchanges since the mid summer over and over again. It is still hard to believe she is no longer around us.
I still have a fond memory of renting your mother's house on Agate Street in Eugene. Since I moved to Connecticut in the fall of 1989, I have kept in touch with your mother by letters and emails.
I will always treasure my memory of your mother.
-- Shizuko Tomoda Professor of Modern Languages Central Connecticut State University
Your mother was a wonderful person whose welcoming smile and many acts of kindness to us will never be forgotten. She enriched our lives, and we are saddened by her loss.
-- Stephen Durrant, Professor of Chinese, East Asian Languages Francoise Calin Durrant, Professor Emerita, Romance Languages University of Oregon
It is with great sadness that I received the news of Yoko's passing, but there is great joy in remembering Yoko, wife, mother, mother-in-law, proud grandmother and good friend.
My memories of Yoko go back to the 1950's when our family (the Shiomis) would all drive down to University of Oregon to watch the home football games. Yoko always hosted us to a lunch and we all proudly pinned on our big white carnations with the green "O's" and headed off to the game.
My sister and I were especially grateful to Yoko, who, bless her heart, chased after most of the famous Oregon quarterbacks and halfbacks and managed to get their autographs for us. I can only imagine the sight of little Yoko hustling after QB George Shaw with a little autograph book in hand and requesting his signature for two teenage girls who lived in Portland. I'm not sure what we did to deserve such generosity on her part. But as teenagers, we proudly showed the autographs to any willing or captive audience.
We have all lost a very special person. She will be missed terribly, but how blessed we were to be a part of her life.
-- Cookie Murata
She was a well loved and admired professor, and she will be missed by many.
I remember how helpful she was when I became an exchange student from Waseda University to University of Oregon in 1985-1986. Her writing (calligraphy) with a brush was most beautiful. When your son, Alejandro Soseki-kun, was born, Professor McClain and I exchanged lots of pictures of our babies (my daughter, Hitomi, was born 6 months earlier, in September 2003). Professor McClain left me with lots of good memories.
-- Motoko Inoue
I am so saddened by the news that your mother has passed away. Since becoming a professor myself, I would often think of her. I hope she knew just how much she was in my thoughts. Your mother was quite an extraordinary woman who made my time in college so much richer than it otherwise would have been. In fact, I once thought of dropping out. When your father passed away, the students made food, and we sat with her in her living room. That afternoon I learned a tremendous amount strength and grace.
-- Emily Diamond Faculty, The Wright Institute
Yoko will remain in all of our lives, in a multitude of ways. I am hopeful that the deep sadness you feel now will gradually give way to warm memories of a wonderful woman who immeasurably enriched the lives of the people she touched. We’ll all miss her achingly, Ken, but she will live on in our hearts--of that you can be certain.
-- Jeff Hanes Associate Professor of History University of Oregon
Your mother was always very graceful and thoughtful to anybody around her. We have known each other more than 20 years. When we visited Sado island in Summer, I was very impressed by her adaptability and fun personality to get along with all of my old friends I introduced to her.
When I had a chance to visit your mom’s house in 2004 with my daughter in Eugene, she cooked some Japanese food for us. My daughter and I both made a comment that she is more “Japanese” than us when it comes to MOTENASHI for her guests. We had a great time visiting her home. She also told me how much she enjoyed visiting Japan and spending time with me and my friends. And she has been wanting to invite me over.
-- Fumiko Kurata
Yoko was a highlight in my life. Always wise, intelligent and compassionate. We had good times together in Eugene, when I lived there, and always after when I moved to Portland. I have such good memories including a recent one, last month? when a colleague and friend from PSU and I went to see her, had lunch downtown and then a lovely cup of tea and more talk later at her house. Another memory from a long time ago is when I took Bob, Yoko and you (age 2 or 3) to the airport on your first trip to meet your family in Japan. You put a few pebbles from the driveway in your pocket before we all got in the car.
-- Mary Constans
The news of your mother’s passing was so unexpected that I’m at a loss for words to convey my sympathy. My husband and I are very sorry for your loss. I still cannot believe she is gone because I had just exchanged e-mail with her about two weeks earlier.
I worked off and on for Yoko-sensei over the past ten years or so and got to know her quite well during that time. Having recently moved away from my family and home country to come to the U.S., she became something like a mother or grandmother to me, someone with whom I could speak in Japanese and freely share my thoughts and concerns. I always enjoyed our conversations, and she talked often about you. She was very proud of you. My husband was a student of hers at the UO before she retired and was also very fond of her. We always looked forward to our visits with her. Her laughter and optimism were so infectious, and she had a great influence on me. I will always strive to be more like her.
She also told me often that she wanted to go quickly and painlessly when her time came, so it is comforting to know that that was the case and that she had family and friends with her in the last moments. I’m sure that is just as she would have wanted it, but I never imagined that she would leave us so soon.