George Imai was born in Hood River, Ore., on March 28, 1929, to parents Tomoyoshi and Kotono Moriyasu. He was the fifth of seven children. The family farmed in the Dee Flat area until February 1942, when Executive Order 9066 forced many families to relocate to various internment camps. At the age of 12, he followed his family to Pinedale, Tule Lake and eventually Minnadoka Relocation Center in Idaho. George and the family left camp in April 1945 and lived in Maryhill, Wash., before they were allowed to return to their home in Dee.
He graduated from Hood River High School in 1947 and for several years drove truck delivering local produce to Portland and Seattle wholesalers. He joined the Army in 1950 -1952, serving active duty in Austria.
After the army, he studied automotive mechanics in Portland. During this time, he met his future wife, Sophia Tomita, and they were married Feb. 6, 1955. They moved to Hood River, where George completed his apprenticeship at Garrabrant Chevrolet, working until 1961. He then bought the Shell Gas station on the corner of 12th and May Street and worked several years before selling it. In 1964, he started George’s Automotive near Orchard Lanes. He was honest and well respected for his work. His belief in working hard and doing your best branched out to many areas of his life. He retired in 1995 after 40 years in the business.
He planted a small cherry orchard in 1981. Harvest was a highlight, having family visit and firing up the grill. He had several fruit trees around the house and loved giving away his peaches. This past summer, he canned 77 quarts of peaches, his newest hobby.
He volunteered for the Dee Fire Department, was a member of VFW, and JACL, serving one term as president. He bowled many years, bowling a 300 game in 1980. He loved hunting for mushrooms and during each outing would recount the many stories of this pastime. He and Sophie 3-wheeled and RV traveled in the western states. He bird hunted in his early years and enjoyed crabbing and clamming at the coast. His greatest joy for most of his life was fishing. He taught his nephews to fish and kept friendships made over the waters of the Wind River for many years. He said he had fished enough that any one man can fish. Knowing his limits, he quit when it was time. He smoked and canned salmon, sharing his efforts with many. The gift came with a complete narration of the process. Family and food were important and he hosted many family meals.
When Sophie began having memory issues, he became her caregiver, cook and housekeeper. He embraced his new role as cook and bought various new cooking gadgets. As a mechanic, he has been problem solving all his life and figured out ways to make tasks easier as he aged. Meeting for coffee with the guys was a ritual. George was a fixture; he knew so many people in this valley and many knew him. He lived a long, full, life that ended with a short battle with lung cancer. The shop is a little quieter without his chatter and stories.
George passed away Dec. 29, 2020, at Parkhurst Place in Hood River at the age of 91.
George is predeceased by his parents, his wife Sophie, brothers Shiro, Hit and Shig, and sisters Molly and Aki. He is survived by his brother Tetsuo of Placentia, Calif.; daughter and son-in-law Teri and Tom Dahl of Hood River; and several nieces and nephews and their families.
Considering his generosity with all things related to food, in lieu of flowers, consider a donation to the FISH Food Bank, or the Odell Fire Department. He greatly appreciated their service to the community. Contributions may be sent to Anderson’s Tribute Center.
The family would like to thank Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital and the coordinated efforts with Parkhurst to make his desire to live at Parkhurst during this difficult time. The family also thanks Providence Hospice of the Gorge.
Due to state restrictions, services are pending at this time.
Arrangements are under the direction of Anderson's Tribute Center (Funerals • Receptions • Cremations), 1401 Belmont Ave., Hood River. Visit www.AndersonsTributeCenter.com to leave a note of condolence for the family.