Thursday, May 6, 2021

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I thought I would feature some famous Asian and Pacific Americans that you might not know much about.

Noriyuki “Pat” Morita was born on June 28, 1932, in Isleton, California. His father immigrated to California from Kyushu in 1915. His mother immigrated to California in 1913. He had a brother who was twelve years older than him.

When he was two, he was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis and spent nine years in the Weimer Institute and Shriners Hospital. For long time periods, he was enveloped in a full body cast and told he would never walk. While in the hospital, he became friends with a visiting priest who told him that if he ever converted to Catholicism, the priest would rename him to "Patrick Aloysius Ignatius Xavier Noriyuki Morita". When he was 11, he had spinal surgeon and learned to walk. He was reunited with his family, who were interned at the Gila River camp in Arizona. Almost two years later, he was relocated to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center.

After WWII, Morita graduated from high school in the Bay area in 1949. The family ran a Chinese restaurant. Morita entertained customers. In 1956, his father was killed in a hit and run accident so his mother and him kept the restaurant running for four more years.

In the 1960s, Morita was married and employed as a data processor for the Department of Motor Vehicles. Eventually he worked for Aerojet General and then Lockheed. He was the liaison between engineers and programmers mapping out lunar eclips for the Polaris and Titan missile projects.

After he felt burned out, he decided to go into show business and worked as a stand up comedian in the Sacremento and San Francisco area. He took the stage name as Pat Morita. Eventually he moved to Los Angelos to try comedy there. In the early 1970s, he got a role on Sanford and Son. From 1975-1983, he played Arnold on Happy Days. He was also Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid. He played many roles after this. During his life, he suffered from alcoholism.

He was married three times and had three children.

On November 24, 2005, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita died of kidney failure after a urinary tract and gallbladder infection.

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