Senior in Action – Sumio Yasutake

Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.

Senior in Action – Sumio Yasutake

as told to Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen

At age 79, Sumio Yasutake is making the leap into retirement on August 1, 2021.  As owner of SY Nursery in Cerritos, he worked full-time, six days a week since he founded the business in 1970.  The SY nursery is a six-acre wholesale nursery, open to the public, and will continue under new ownership in August.  These growers specialize in ornamental shrubbery, palms, flowering trees and vines, and plants amenable to southern California’s climate.  SY Nursery is located at 19900 S. Pioneer Blvd. in Cerritos, California.  Phone 562-865-8069.

Sumio Yasutake was born in Kyushu, Japan, and emigrated to the United States in 1964 after he finished his schooling.  He met his wife Yoshie in the United States where they raised their two children, Patricia and Justin.  Now, Sumio and Yoshie’s children are grown, adding four grandchildren to the clan. A close-knit family, they congregate for dinner weekly, and volunteer together at the Southeast Japanese School & Cultural Center located in Norwalk.

The Southeast Japanese School & Cultural Center recently honored Sumio Yasutake for his generosity of time and resources at their Awards Event, held in June 2021.  The following description was printed in the event program:

Sumio Yasutake began his involvement with the Southeast Japanese School and Community Center when his children enrolled in Japanese school in the late 1970s.  During the early years, the school was still very small, around 40 families, so parents’ volunteering was essential.  During those early years, there was little money to use for the classrooms, so he donated desks for classroom use.  He served as PTA president for the 1979 and 1980 school years.  Under his leadership, the PTA conducted many fundraisers, among them was the newspaper and can recycling drive.  As owner of SY Nursery, he offered the use of the large nursery truck to haul away the recyclables.

Sumio was instrumental in planning the 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Japanese School in 1985.  He also provided plants to decorate the gym for the celebration banquet.  He continued to provide plants to decorate the gym for the 75th Anniversary in 2000 and the 90th Anniversary celebrations in 2015.

In 1994 when the new annex building was built, Sumio, along with other landscapers and gardeners, helped design and complete the landscaping, and donated over 200 plants for the Center.  The Italian cypresses and Hollywood junipers still form the borders around the Center today.

In 1998 when the idea of a plant sale during the annual Japanese Cultural Festival came up, SY Nursery took the initiative and solicited other nurseries to donate plants for this initial sale.  The response was very positive.  For the next 15 years, SY nursery continued to volunteer their time and contacted other nurseries for donations, picked up, stored and then transported the plants on the morning of the festival to the Center for the plant sale.  Although it was a once-a-year event, it was very labor intensive as it needed to be well coordinated.  In addition, SY Nursery donated several 5- gallon specimen plants as raffle prizes each year.  Sumio continues his involvement with the Center now that his grandchildren are studying Japanese at Southeast Japanese School.  Now, after almost five decades of generous contributions to SEJS&CC, we would like to say “thank you!”

In retirement, Sumio Yasutake will have more time to spend with family, and to care for his home landscaping and vegetable garden.  He and his wife look forward to many more travel adventures in retirement, as long as it is safe to do so.  Their favorite cruise was to Alaska, but they also have fond memories of an international cruise from Venice, Italy to Istanbul, Turkey.

Congratulations on your well-deserved award recognition, and HAPPY RETIREMENT!  For more information about the Southeast Japanese School & Cultural Center, visit their website

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