Obituary: Eloise Dale

Beloved wife, mother, author, musician, teacher, Lutheran missionary in Japan

Eloise Dale, a 25-year resident of Pilgrim Place in Claremont who spent 45 of her 96 years in Japan, died October 5.

Born in Oakley, Kansas, Eloise graduated from Oakley High School in 1942. She entered Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas that same year, graduating magna cum laude in 1946 with degrees in music education and piano. At Bethany she was a member of several organizations, including Sigma Alpha Iota, a music fraternity for women, and the Beta Tau Sigma scholastic society.

From 1947 to 1949 she studied pipe organ at the University of Minnesota, and worked as radio organist and secretary for the Lutheran Bible Institute radio broadcast, “Psalm of Life.”

In 1949 she married Bethany classmate Kenneth Dale in Minneapolis, and then went to work at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey while her husband was a student there. The couple answered a call to serve the Lutheran Church in Japan “to adventure into immediate post-war Japan, and in 1951 this little sunflower was transplanted across the Pacific,” her husband Kenneth said.

From 1952 to 1960 they lived in Ube, and started a church there. Their two sons, Gregory and Ted, were both born while they lived in Ube.

From 1962 to 1964 she studied organ and other subjects at the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, while her husband continued his studies there.

The family returned to Japan in 1962, called to serve at the Lutheran Seminary in Tokyo. There she began to teach piano and organ to children, a job she would hold for 33 years. She also played for daily chapel services during that time, and was a regular organist at the International Lutheran Church in Tokyo from 1966 until leaving Japan in 1996.

“In Japan she thrived especially in three areas—music, cooking and flower arranging (ikebana),” her husband Kenneth said. “She published a little book on how to make cookies, and that book hit the market on a hot spot and sold well over 150,000 copies.”

In 1975 and 1976 she studied pipe organ and took classes at Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minnesota. From 1980 to 1981 she continued to study pipe organ and did classwork toward a master’s degree at Concordia College in River Forest, Illinois.

During her time in Japan she was asked to write various articles for the Japanese women’s magazine Fujin no Tomo (Women’s Companion). She also wrote three cookbooks published in Japanese, and a book about her 45 years of life in Japan, Himawari Musume, which literally means, “Sunflower Girl.” It was published in both Japanese and English. “To many in Japan she became ‘The little sunflower girl from Kansas,’” her husband recalled. She also taught cooking classes for Japanese women, gave organ concerts in various churches around Japan, including a performance at the centennial celebration for the Lutheran Church of Japan, in 1993.

She loved Japan and Japanese culture, taking classes in Japanese arts, including cha-no-yu (tea ceremony), ikebana (flower arranging), okoto (a classical 53-stringed instrument), and odori (Japanese dance). She attended many Japanese church activities for women and held office in the national Fujinkai (Lutheran Women’s Society).

“Well, she liked Japan so much that when it came time to retire in 1996, people would comment, ‘Wasn’t it hard for you to live in Japan for 45 years?’ And she would say, ‘Oh no! I love Japan and want to stay here!’” her husband recalled. “You have to be careful when you transplant a sunflower!”

Her final Japanese concert, a farewell performance, took place in 1996. She and Kenneth retired that year, moving directly from Tokyo to Pilgrim Place, where the couple continued to live until her death.

“Moving to Pilgrim Place she blossomed again, so far as health and age permitted,” her husband said. “She dedicated much time and energy into preparing for several pipe organ concerts on Claremont United Church of Christ’s magnificent Glatter-Götz pipe organ. To many Pilgrims of some years ago, she became again the ‘flower girl,’ providing three or four Japanese flower arrangements monthly for the Health Center, and chairing the flower committee for many years.

“On her behalf I want to thank all of you who supported us in so many, many ways during these past 25 years at Pilgrim Place. Thanks be to God for her life!”

Memorial gifts in her name may be made to Inland Valley Hope Partners at, click on “donate online,” or by check to Inland Valley Hope Partners 1753 N. Park Ave., Pomona, CA 91768.



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