Brother George Matsuoka
Born: Chicago, Illinois, August 27, 1921
Professed: May 17, 1944
Died: April 12, 2020
[Our local newspaper, The News-Tribune, published an article about Br. George shortly after his death. Click here to read the article.]
Brother George Matsuoka, O.S.B., monk of Saint Bede Abbey in Peru, IL, died the morning of April 12, 2020, Easter Sunday at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Lacon. He was 98.
He was born in Chicago on August 27, 1921 to George and Emma (Laudstrom) Matsuoka. A week or two after his birth George’s mother died. After his mother’s death his father found it difficult to care for him and when George was three, he took him to Angel Guardian Orphanage on the north side of Chicago. He lived there and, while there, attended grammar and high school. After his sophomore year, in 1937, he attended vocational school, in the evenings, for horticulture. During the day he worked for a florist.
In 1941, he took a leave of absence to visit monasteries to pursue a possible religious vocation. The first was St. Meinrad in Indiana. He ran into problems with the government, because it was wartime and he was of Japanese descent. The FBI showed up and told him he had a month to get back to Illinois or would be sent to an internment camp in California. It was then he chose to visit St. Bede. In 1943 he was a novice and professed his vows on May 17, 1944.
Shortly after his arrival at the abbey, he was assigned to work in the bakery. He wasn’t there long before being assigned to the print shop where he spent many years. Even though he didn’t work in the bakery long, cookie baking was not something he forgot. In later life he would put packages of cookies in students’ lockers and would bring them to customers when he delivered print shop orders to local customers.
For most of his time at St. Bede, Br. George was known to the students in our academy, but it was after his retirement from the print shop that he began the tradition of greeting the students with a smile and a handshake at the beginning and end of each school day. Some used to joke that he shook more hands than the president. He truly was the Spirit of St. Bede and a very visible sign to all of Benedictine hospitality in receiving all as Christ.
Br. George celebrated his 75th anniversary of profession in 2019. Unfortunately, in the spring of that same year, it became necessary for him to enter St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Lacon, as his mounting mental and physical limitations made it impossible for us to offer adequate health care and socialization. He thrived in his new environment, participated in many of the activities, and was a delight to staff and residents alike. He died peacefully on April 12, Easter Sunday, awaking to eternal life on the morning of the Lord’s resurrection.
Reception of his body at the St. Bede Abbey Church was on Tuesday, April 14. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated on Wednesday, April 15th with Abbot Philip Davey, O.S.B. presiding, with interment in the abbey cemetery. Because of the social distancing in place because of the Coronavirus pandemic, services were private. A public memorial mass will be celebrated at a date to be announced.
We are grateful for the suffrages you will offer for our deceased confrere, and we promise faithful remembrance of your deceased.
Abbot Philip and community