After nearly 10 months of battling cancer, 44-year-old Kazunori Ikeda, better known as “Kazu,” passed away at the Commonwealth Health Center on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014.
Ikeda was diagnosed in May with squamous cell carcinoma, a type of non-melanoma skin cancer, at CHC and sought treatment in the Philippines where his condition was confirmed. After months of treatment and battling the disease, Ikeda took his final breathe at CHC Tuesday night at 9:25pm.
He is survived by his sister, Mami Ikeda, 46. “We just had each other,” she said.
Their mother, Mieko, passed away 15 years ago due to a brain tumor and their father, Noriyoshi, passed away in early May of 2012.
Kazu, a 1988 graduate of Mount Carmel School, worked under Tasi Tours as bus operations manager for the past two decades. According to his sister, he always reported to work on time even when he was sick and only quit his job after being stricken with cancer.
“He was very genuine and humble,” she said. “He couldn’t care less about what nationalities or race people were and he was very nice and thoughtful.”
She reminisced how her only sibling would never cease to put other people before himself. “He was there for everybody who needed help and that is the reason everyone is out here for him and helping.”
Kazu’s passing sparked countless Facebook postings of people paying tribute to him and sending their condolences to the Ikeda family. His fellow 1988 classmates came together immediately after his death to assist Mami in funeral planning and services.
Mount Carmel released this statement on their Web page yesterday: “We remember AlumKnight Kazunori Ikeda who passed away after a battle with cancer. Kazu was a happy person who brought joy and laughs to everyone that knew him. Our prayers are with you Kazu and your family.”
According to Mami, she arrived on Saipan only in 2009 after finishing her work in Japan. “I missed a lot of his years, but I know because of the reaction of people that he was legendary.”
He was also known for his keen interest in motor sports, particularly drag racing. Fellow motor sports athlete and long-time friend Paul Guerrero said he will eternally remember two things about his beloved friend—his smile and his willingness to help others. Guerrero, who has known Kazu since 1996, considers Kazu an older brother and mentor.
As a child growing up on Saipan, Kazu played in the local little league team in his junior high years. His former baseball coach, Anthony Cabrera, echoed Guerrero’s sentiments. “I will always remember him as someone who never gave up.”
He said he will surely miss his friend and will never forget the first words Kazu said 10 months ago when he was diagnosed with cancer: “I am going to fight this fight.”
Cabrera said, “He has always had so much determination and an open heart. When I first learned about his diagnosis I kept quiet, but I always knew that he wouldn’t go down without a fight. He was never a quitter.”