Rose Wenjen never let obstacles slow her down

Rose Wenjen overcame obstacles to make a life for herself and her family. Photo by Kevin Gilligan.

Seal Beach resident Rose Wenjen passed away on Sept. 15, after battling breast cancer for the second time. It was just one of many challenges Rose faced in her life, each time she persevered and succeeded.

Rose was born in San Francisco in the neighborhood known as Japantown. Her parents had immigrated from Hiroshima and never learned to speak English. Yet, Rose would go on to teach Buddhist Sunday School in the neighborhood. World War II would intervene and Rose and her family, like other Japanese Americans, were forced into internment camps. Because they had relatives in a remote part of Utah, they were sent to camp in Utah.

The camp was near a site where underground nuclear testing had been done.

“It was like they could not escape the atomic bomb,” her daughter Mia said.

Again, Rose made the best of the situation. She was able to eventually enroll in Weber College in Utah and earn an AA Degree. After the war, her family relocated to Los Angeles, where she would go to work as a court stenographer.

“For the first time, Asian Americans could work for the government as Civil Servants and that is what she did,” Mia said.

She met her husband in Los Angeles and they relocated to Seal Beach. She would eventually quit work to raise their children. However, with the money she had earned she was able to purchase a house near LAX, where her parents, her siblings and their family lived. As an American-born citizen, Rose had rights to own property that Japanese American immigrants did not have at the time.

Rose raised her children in Seal Beach and became integrated in the community. She was a volunteer with the Seal Beach Friendship Club and helped coordinate a sister-city partnership with Todos Santos, Mexico. The club raised money to help children in that city.

Her husband was a math professor at Cal State Long Beach. When he was forced to stop working due to Parkinson’s disease, Rose again went back to work, this time at the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach.

Rose died just a week short of her 96th birthday after a full and beautiful life. Despite obstacles and challenges placed before her, Rose always moved forward and made the most of what she accomplished.

“She will be remembered for her unfailing optimism, her kindness, and her generosity of spirit,” Mia said.

She is survived by her three children, their spouses, and six grandchildren. They are:

Wendell Wenjen and his wife Kelly Minamide and daughter of San Jose, CA; Daughter, Mia Wenjen and her husband Tai Lee and their three children of Newton, MA; and Daughter, Noreen Wenjen and her husband Kevin Gilligan and their two children of Torrance, CA.

A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019 at the Gardena Buddhist Church located at 1517 166th St., Gardena, CA 90247.