Our community mourns the loss of John Sasaki, a figure whose life story encapsulates the essence of resilience, entrepreneurship, and unwavering commitment to family and community. John’s journey, deeply intertwined with the history of his family and their legacy through Barry-Regent Cleaners, offers a profound reflection on the American experience, marked by adversity, triumph, and the enduring spirit community.
John Sasaki’s story cannot be fully appreciated without understanding the roots from which it grew. Born in Los Angeles in 1936, John’s early years were marked by hardship and injustice as he and his family were forcibly relocated to internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II. Yet, it was within these confines that the seeds of resilience and determination were sown—traits that would define John’s life and legacy.
From left: Fred Yoshitomo Sasaki, age twelve; Asako “Mona” Sasaki; John Tomoyoshi Sasaki, age eight; and unidentified friend and hatted shadow | Make Mag
His mother, Asako “Mona” Sasaki, emerged from the Heart Mountain relocation camp with an unwavering resolve to rebuild her life and provide for her family as a single mother. Her journey from cleaning clothes within the camp to establishing a successful dry cleaning business in Chicago is a testament to her strength, vision, and entrepreneurial spirit. This legacy of resilience and success would profoundly influence John and his brother, Fred, shaping their futures and their contributions to the community of Lakeview East.
After the World War II, John and his family moved to Chicago, a city that would become his lifelong home. Here, John’s mother, Asako “Mona” Sasaki, established Barry-Regent Cleaners in 1950, laying the foundation for what would become a community institution in Lakeview East for over 70 years. John was enrolled at Lake View High School and quickly showed his academic excellence as he became the valedictorian of Lake View High School, later attending the University of Chicago before joining the US Army.
After his military service for the U.S. Army, John returned to Chicago, where he took over the family business alongside his brother Fred. Barry-Regent Cleaners became a symbol of the Sasaki family’s enduring legacy in Lakeview East. Fred, Mona, and John were immortalized as a trio of three-pointed crowns adorning the business’s back-building mural, a visual testament to their indelible mark on the community. This imagery extended to calling cards, pens, calendars, and a myriad of promotional items, each bearing the emblem of their shared legacy.
John’s impact on Lakeview East went far beyond his business. His love for the city and his commitment to community engagement were evident in everything he did. From his avid support of any and all Chicago sports teams to his participation his the monthly “pub group,” John’s presence was a constant source of strength and camaraderie in the neighborhood. One of his favorite past times was meeting neighbors and fishing at Diversey Harbor.
John Sasaki’s life was a testament to the power of perseverance, the importance of community, and the deep love for one’s city. He is survived by his three daughters, Emily, Ellen, and Meggie, and four grandchildren, who continue to carry forward his legacy of love, resilience, and community service.
We invite friends, family, and community members to join us in celebrating John’s life by donating to The Japanese American Service Committee would be a cherished way to honor John’s commitment to community support and resilience.
John Sasaki’s story is a poignant reminder of the impact one individual can have on their community. His life challenges us to support local businesses, engage with our neighbors, and build a community that reflects the values John lived by: resilience, dedication, and love. John will be dearly missed, but his legacy in Lakeview East and beyond will continue to inspire for generations to come.
As we bid farewell to a remarkable individual, let us carry forward the values he lived by—resilience, community, and love—ensuring that his legacy continues to inspire and influence for generations to come.