Elizabeth Kusuda: 1924 – 2009
Elizabeth “Bessie” Kusuda, MD, Ph.D., of Issaquah, died February 13, 2009, at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue. She was 84.
We mourn the passing of Bessie, who lived in the Bellewood Retirement Apartments in Issaquah for more than ten years. Born in Tokyo, Japan, on December 10, 1924, to an English father and Japanese mother, Bessie was an English citizen living in Japan. Bessie graduated from the prestigious Tokyo Women’s Medical University. Early in her career, she served on the Atomic Casualty Commission in Hiroshima to help victims of the World War II atomic bomb.
In 1950, she married Hawaii-born Mike Kusuda and became an American citizen. She had three children and continued her medical career. She was a tireless, dedicated healer who, in the prime of her career, served as chief anesthesiologist of Narita Red Cross Hospital, near Tokyo.
While she was working on her doctorate in her 50s, Bessie was diagnosed with breast cancer and received a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Bessie spent the latter part of her career as a psychiatric doctor, serving mentally ill patients in Gunma, Japan.
In her early 70s, Bessie retired from work and received treatment at the University of Washington for lung and cervical cancer. She lived in Issaquah near her three children. In her final years, she enjoyed writing and publishing haiku, gardening, and spending time with her family.
Amazingly, she survived all of her cancers and was cancer-free, but the treatments took a heavy toll on her body. Her susceptibility to cancer may be attributed to working in Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bomb.
Bessie leaves a lasting legacy through her children Margaret Bartlett, Valarie Kusuda-Smick, and Charles Kusuda, as well as seven grandchildren, a great-granddaughter, and two brothers. She was preceded in death by her husband and her sister.
Bessie will be remembered as a trailblazer who sacrificed her own health to heal others. We will miss her zest for life, compassion, and grace while overcoming mind-boggling obstacles.