Sensei often speaks about how interdependent we all are in relation to one another. I found this especially true as we highlight this month’s Super Senior couple, Mr. Jits & Mrs. Jean Higa, dedicated MVBT members for 50 years.
Written by Ricky Chu
Did you know that Jits & Jean have been a part of the Mountain View Buddhist Temple Landscape Committee for the last 4+ decades? (2020 marked the 50th year of service for Jits!) To be a part of any organization for that long shows a unique level of dedication. There is always a sense of peacefulness when you step foot on the Temple grounds. We are very blessed to have such a wonderful group of volunteers all these years. Fellow member Ken Nakano says it well, “Jits and Jean exhibit the ‘spirit of Dana’ by setting the example consistently over many years at the Mountain View Buddhist Temple.”
A couple summers ago, I recall meeting Jits at Nakayoshi Gakko summer school where he was happily dropping off his grandchildren in the mornings. He always had a warm smile and humorous demeanor. Jits & Jean have 10 grandchildren [Kyle, Jaimie, Lindsey, Caitlyn, Vanessa, Jillian, Lacey, Kylie, Blake and Sammi whose ages range from 9-26]. Their five children are: Margie Nishimoto, Garret Higa, Norman Higa, Marilyn Armistead and Clayton Higa.
Jits was born on Lawai, Kauai and grew up in the town of Molaa, Kauai. His family was originally from Okinawa. Jean was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and her family was originally from Hiroshima. The two met in 1958 in Berkeley at a bowling alley.
Of all the many talents Jits possesses, one that many know about is his singing talent. As a member of the Mountain View Buddhist Choir, Jits performs regularly for the Sangha at Sunday Services and other important Temple events. It is always a treat to have the choir perform as they provide a truly uplifting experience especially for the Dharma School students.
Jits in the MVBT Choir (front row, far right)
Fellow choir member and conductor, Mel Inouye states, “Jits is one of the most dedicated choir members who actually sang with the previous choir in the 1980’s as well as singing Karaoke for years. Always one of the first to show up for rehearsals and performances. So pleased to have him.”
Jits singing at Obon in the 80’s
Another fellow choir member, Irv Ozawa fondly says, “Of the three Tenors who normally perform, Jits is usually ‘OUR’ lead Tenor. The Tenors follow Jits’ lead on the notes & rhythms so the Tenors can perform in unison. So when the Tenors make a noticeable error, Jits always says, ‘At least we all made the same mistake in unison, so it all still sounds good!’”
Jits’s favorite songs to sing are “Seiya” and “What a Wonderful World.”
Jean has been an integral part of the MVBT community and many of her friends can attest to her dedication and love for others.
Donna Okubo recalls, “I was in the first group of girls in the MVBT Fuji 4-H, which Jean started (Leader of the Club for 40 Years). Our 4-H did not consist of taking care of any livestock, but we did a lot of crafts and cooking, which are part of Jean’s many talents. Our uniforms were green pants, white shirts, and a green scarf with the gold 4-H pin. I’m sure our uniforms were all handmade by our moms or with the help of Jean. A few of my fondest memories include how she submitted all of our “Bunka Shishu” to the Santa Clara County Fair. We all took first place, which included a cash prize of $1 (See picture).
Bunka Shishu at Santa Clara County Fair – First Place in 1977
“A few years ago, Jean and I were helping out at the Chicken Teriyaki fundraiser. We had to take the chicken bags of four in each bag up to the lobby area. There she was carrying four bags of chicken on each arm! I’m grateful for Jean’s leadership of establishing the first girls’ program for the Temple, as well as her continued commitment and hard work at the Temple.”
Ken Nakano also recollects, “My favorite memories of Jean are when she would collect the plastic yogurt cups as flower vases for decorating the Keiro Kai luncheon tables…so now, I never throw away the cups! Also, when she would ask to come over to our house to have Jits cut holly berries from our tree after Thanksgiving to mail back to Hawaii…I have no interest in the holly berries, but didn’t realize it’s a novelty in Hawaii so I’m glad now because my tree gets trimmed once a year!”
THANK YOU, JITS AND JEAN
There are not enough words to describe the devotion that Jits & Jean and their entire close-knit family have given to the Sangha. When I asked their friends to describe Jits & Jean in 3-words, these were the adjectives that were most commonly used:
Jits: sense of humor, strong, family
Jean: selfless, devoted, quietly funny
Next time we are at the Temple, we should take a moment to look around and reflect upon how fortunate we are to have Jits & Jean as a part of our lives. The two of them have truly touched us all with everything that they have contributed to our Sangha.