Mary was born in Toyama, Japan, the eldest child of Reverend Jun and Mrs Maki Kabayama. In 1929 she immigrated to Canada with the family, which had grown to five with the birth of brother’s Michiomi and Yoshiomi. They settled in Ocean Falls, BC where her parents ministered to the Japanese community. While there the family grew to 10 with the birth of Grace, Eiko, Florence, Joseph and Lily. As the eldest daughter, Mary took on a lot of the care of her younger siblings.
In 1942, in the midst of WWII, the family was evacuated from this coastal community as enemy aliens and interned at Hasting Park in Vancouver, later moving to Raymond, Alberta. After graduating high school Mary went to Lamont, Alberta, to train for nursing at the United Church Hospital, one of the few that would take people of Japanese descent. She worked in High River, Alberta before returning home to look after her younger siblings once again while her parents took their first trip back to Japan.
Always someone of strong faith, Mary then attended the United Church Training school in Toronto. While in Toronto she met Norman Nakashima. They were married on November 27, 1957 in Kelowna BC, where Mary’s parents now lived, before moving back east to his farm in Comber, Ontario. They retired from the farm to a beautiful home in Kingsville on Lake Eerie.
After Norman’s death in 1994, Mary moved back to BC to be closer to her sisters, settling in Westbank. Mary was welcomed into the homes and lives of sister Florence and Eiko. She moved to Smith Creek in about 2009, still active in her church and community.
Mary was known for her fantastic cooking and beautiful origami. She loved music and played the piano and organ for many congregations. Proud of her heritage, she spoke and wrote Japanese. She kept in touch with family in Japan and travelled there to visit.
She is mourned by sisters Florence Taneda and Lily Karpoff, brother Joseph Kabayama and her many nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and nephews and friends.
A service in her memory will be held on Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. at the Westbank United Church. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a charity of your choice, suggestions include the Westbank United Church and the Centre for Christian Studies (formerly the United Church Training School).