Fun-loving pharmacist a whiz at creating smiles
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Author: Virginia Culver
George Yoshito Masunaga
George Masunaga never needed a book on how to communicate, said his nephew, Gordon Studebaker.
"There was an electric buzz around him that just drew people to him," Studebaker told several hundred people at Masunaga's funeral Tuesday.
Masunaga "could coax a smile out of the grumpiest child," said longtime friend Faye Asano of Denver.
Masunaga, a pharmacist in the Denver area for decades, died March 3 after a long illness. He was 96.
Though Masunaga and his wife, Mary, didn't have children of their own, "they had a huge family of children they 'adopted' through love and caring," Asano said.
The irrepressible Masunaga also was a constant activist to help the Japanese-American community.
For 60 years, Masunaga worked with others in the Japanese American Citizens' League, and he was the first president of the Brighton Japanese-American Association.
Masunaga worked "day and night" at the pharmacy, his wife said. "Sometimes we were up at 3 a.m. to scrape the (drug store) parking lot in Northglenn," she said.
His off hours were filled with fishing and skiing, and he didn't stop skiing until 2002.
Masunaga loved to tell stories (with some embellishment, his wife said) and "loved crazy hats," said Lara Urano of Aurora, a great-niece.
Dozens of the hats were displayed after the funeral, and family and friends were invited to take one as a memento.
The Rev. Paul Murphy-Geiss of Simpson United Methodist Church praised Masunaga for having "a true sense of humor and for showing us that life can be fun."
George Yoshito Masunaga was born in Fort Lupton on Sept. 2, 1914, and graduated from Brighton High School . He graduated from the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy and worked as a chemist with the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.
He served in the Army, then was chief civilian pharmacist at Lowry Air Force Base.
He married Mary Funakoshi on July 4, 1958. She was executive secretary to several Denver Post editors.
Masunaga and and his two brothers operated Walgreens stores in Denver and Adams County, and later he owned Swansea Drug Store.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a brother, John Masunaga, and a sister, Mary Fujimoto.