05-28-20 | Association News

Moment of Silence

Joseph and Elizabeth Yamada
by Staff

Elizabeth Yamada (April 29, 1930 - May 20, 2020) and Joseph Y. Yamada, FASLA, (May 1, 1930 - May 11, 2020)
A note from Publisher George Schmok

Joe Yamada was so well-known and universally well-liked, his passing is sad for the entire profession. I didn't know him well, but he always had time to talk with me and I can't remember him ever speaking an ill word.

If you knew Joe and would like to share a memory, a few good words or have a pic or two of Joe, we would love to hear and see them. You can send the message or pictures to me at and let me know if it's OK if we tag them to this article.

God Bless everyone and stay safe. Joe . . . We'll miss you dearly . . .

- George

Joseph Y. Yamada, FASLA, the cofounder, along with Harriett B. Wimmer, of the landscape architecture firm Wimmer Yamada and Associates, died on May 11, and was followed in death shortly after by his wife and eventual business partner, Elizabeth, who lost her battle with COVID-19 on May 20.

Started in 1954, the firm (now Wimmer Yamada and Caughey) became well known "for pioneering beautiful landscape designs all over San Diego," according to the Southern California chapter of ASLA.

Joseph joined the association in 1958, was made a Fellow in 1989 and retired in 1998 but reportedly didn't really stop working; staying involved in company matters and the industry on the whole. Elizabeth, or 'Liz' joined the firm in 1974, and handled marketing, public relations, and business administration during her 20 years at the company

Interestingly, Joseph and Elizabeth (nee Kikuchi) were born two days apart and met when they were 11 at the World War II internment camp in Poston, Arizona.

Joseph's career accomplishments included designs for SeaWorld San Diego, UC San Diego, parks in downtown San Diego and the Olympic Training Center in nearby Chula Vista. Among other features, his work was distinguished by "the Yamada roll," which were gently rounded knolls of greenery.

Their son Garrett Yamada issued a statement that read in part, "My dad passed away from the effects of dementia in his sleep... at home surrounded by family. (My parents) recently turned 90. My mom on April 29 and my dad on May 1. The family celebrated with them on a Zoom call on their birthdays. We did not know it would be our final celebration with them.

"We want to start by thanking everyone for all their love, support and prayers. It has been of great comfort and encouragement to know that my parents had so many wonderful friends and relatives.

"At this time, there is no memorial planned due to the impact of COVID. Perhaps there will be a time in the future when we can safely gather to share memories and food. Both my parents wanted there to be a lot of food when we gather.

"Both our parents were wonderful people who helped make us and our community better. We greatly miss them but are so thankful they were a part of our lives."

Garrett also thanked Beth Yamada and Sylvia Marron who served as caregivers to Joseph in his later years.

Pat Caughey, FASLA, a business partner of the Yamadas for 25 years, expressed that the couple were "personal mentors, counselors, and friends" of his, and mourned "the "significant loss to the WYAC family."

Besides Garrett, the couple is survived by son Kent Yamada of San Diego, and daughter Joan Batcheller of Lafayette, California, and their families.
In lieu of gifts or flowers, Garrett requests that contributions be made in his father's name to the Landscape Architecture Foundation ( or the Cultural Landscape Foundation (, and in his mother's name to the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego ( or the First Presbyterian Church of Newark, California (, where Garrett has been pastor for over 10 years, following in the footsteps of Elizabeth's father, Kenji Kikuchi.

Caughey concludes, "The Yamadas will be sorely missed, but never forgotten."

More about the couple can be found at

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