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Dr. Ben Chikaraishi, Beloved MBT Founding Member, Passes Away at 100

Dr. Ben Tsutomu Chikaraishi, a beloved founding member of the Midwest Buddhist Temple, passed away on Feb. 21, 2022, at the age of 100 in Lincolnwood, Illinois.


Although he had many health setbacks over his long life, Chikaraishi remained strong and lived independently with his wife Kiyo right up to his passing. After one final stay in the hospital, he returned to the rehab center at Lincolnwood Place, where he died peacefully with Kiyo, his beloved wife of 76 years, and their family by his side.


Chikaraishi was born in Colusa, California, on Sept. 10, 1921, to father Saroku Chikaraishi and mother Sato Oyama Chikaraishi. His parents married in Japan and immigrated to the United States in 1904.


The fourth of five children, Chikaraishi spent most of his childhood in Stockton, California, helping his father manage a hotel. He was the first in his family to attend college and pursued an optometry degree at the University of California, Berkeley.


But World War II interrupted his education and, in 1942, Chikaraishi and his family were incarcerated in Rohwer internment camp in Arkansas as a result of the infamous Executive Order 9066. While at Rohwer, Chikaraishi practiced optometry at the camp hospital, where he met Kiyo Chino, his future bride.


In July 1943, Chikaraishi relocated to Chicago and finished his optometry degree at the Northern Illinois College of Optometry. In 1945, he established his optometry practice in Chicago and was joined by his son Jim in 1974. Together, they served many patients in the Japanese American community. Chikaraishi practiced for 41 years until his retirement in 1986.

In 1945, he and Kiyo Chino were married, and they resided in Chicago until 1960, when they built a new home in Morton Grove. It was there that the couple raised their family and hosted innumerable gatherings over the next 57 years.


In their later years, the couple was able to travel the world and go on many casino trips with the Midwest Buddhist Temple Golden Agers group.

In 2017, they moved to Lincolnwood Place for Senior Living.


Beyond his devotion to his extended family, Chikaraishi will be remembered as an avid fisherman, a bountiful gardener, and lifelong loyal Chicago White Sox fan.


As patriarch, his advice and guidance were sought and valued by his family. But he will also be remembered for his civic and community contributions.


Chikaraishi was a founding member of the Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago and served many leadership capacities, including as President of the Board of Trustees and Chairman of the Building Committee.


The Building Committee was responsible for planning, fundraising, and overseeing the construction of the Midwest Buddhist Temple building, which stands as an architectural icon in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.


Chikaraishi was also a driving force behind MBT’s Ginza Holiday and served decades as the Ginza announcer (“and a good, good evening to you!”).


His self-taught investment expertise helped provide financial stability for the temple and that legacy benefits MBT even today.


Just as important, he helped create the Reverend Gyodo Kono Fund, in honor of MBT’s founding minister, which has granted scholarships to many students seeking education in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.


To support the Japanese American youth in the 1950s through the 1970s, Chikaraishi helped create the Chicago Nisei Athletic Association (CNAA), which enabled Japanese American young people from all over the Chicago area to participate in various sports and organized leagues. He has been a positive influence in the lives of many, many people.


He is survived by his wife Kiyo; his children, Dona Chikaraishi (Philip Rosoff), Ben Todd Chikaraishi (Phyllis Smith), James Chikaraishi (Amy Taketoshi), Lynne Matsumoto (Jerry), and Nancy Chikaraishi (Marshall Arne); 16 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.


He is predeceased by his parents, Saroku Chikaraishi and Sato Oyama Chikaraishi; and siblings, Masami Shizue Chikaraishi, Tom Tadashi Chikaraishi, Sadami Edith Morimoto, and Satomi Nojiri.


The family held a private service for Chikaraishi in late February and they hope to have a memorial service this spring at the Midwest Buddhist Temple just as he would have wished. If you would like to share a memory of Chikaraishi, you can do so at the Lakeview Funeral Home website at: https://www.lakeviewfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Ben-Chikaraishi?obId=24091166#/obituaryInfo


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