Fairlee, Vt. — Aya Itagaki, 79, died on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center after a stroke. She was born in 1934 in Otaru, Japan and immigrated 30 years later to Hanover, N.H. with her husband and her three children. Though less than 5’ tall, she was larger than life. Trained in traditional Japanese calligraphy since childhood, she experimented with different aspects of the art, making it entirely her own. She was an intuitive artist who spent days working out the composition and the style of a piece, only to execute the final version in seconds. A founding member of the AVA Gallery, she exhibited widely around the region over the years.
As her children grew up, Aya started to explore many other interests in depth. She took up karate at the Okinawan Karate Academy in Lebanon at the age of 64 and reached her goal of becoming a black belt at the age of 70. A proponent of living life to the fullest, she was taking belly dancing lessons and learning kyudo (Japanese ceremonial archery) at the time of her death. She was also a lifelong skier, hitting the slopes with two younger generations a month before she died. As a granddaughter noted, Aya was one of the few grandmothers on the planet with nunchucks, bamboo bow and arrows, and ski boots in the trunk of her Subaru.
Most of all, though, she loved people. The family home on the shore of Lake Morey was the frequent scene of eclectic lunches and dinners with many friends from all parts of her life, a place where the conversation would swirl around different topics in multiple languages. She was never much for doing housework, but from her semi-chaotic kitchen and studio came wonderful food and art to feed both the body and the soul.
Aya is survived by Kazuhiko, her husband of 59 years and a retired physicist at CRREL; three children, Haruhiko (Lisa Gichner), Junji, and Sachi (Kirk Miller); as well as four granddaughters, Leah, Sarai, Miya and Romi.
There will be a viewing on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at the Okinawan Karate Academy, 351 Miracle Mile, Lebanon, N.H. from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Contributions may be made to the Aya Itagaki Art Scholarship Fund at the AVA Gallery, 11 Bank Street, Lebanon, NH 03766. Please sign the guestbook and leave remembrances at: caringbridge.org/visit/ayaitagaki.