Goodbye, Soul Mate

Editor's note: The following letter is a tribute to Miyako Matsuki '59, whose obituary appears in this issue's "Losses in the Oberlin Family" section.

Miyako Matsuki and I met at Gettysburg College when she arrived in 1994 to teach in the religion department. I had joined the music department just two years earlier. Even though we attended Oberlin at different times, we experienced many of the same things and spoke about them together often.

As Miyako and I came to know each other better, I was amazed as she revealed her personal story. She came to the United States to complete her final year of high school in Cleveland, and she ended up remaining to attend Oberlin on a full scholarship. She told how her education changed her, providing independence from her traditional Japanese upbringing. When she married an Amer-icančan Oberlin classmatečher father disowned her. She did not return to Japan until 20 years later.

Miyako and I became even closer during a January 1995 faculty study trip to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. I remember how tough she was on that trip, and how much of a stoic she remained through a serious stomach upset and an ankle sprain. And she was fun, too, as she became excited about each new thing that we saw and experienced. When I would practice voice, Miyako would listen with obvious enjoyment, even to the warm-up exercises. No matter how busy she was, she attended concerts in which I played the flute, sang, or conducted. She was a constant and quiet supporter.

Last summer, Miyako and I took her daughter, Sumiko, who had studied flute, to hear flutist James Galway perform with the Baltimore Symphony. We had dinner before the concert with Bonnie Lake '52, longtime flutist with the orchestra and my flute teacher at the Peabody Preparatory School. Miyako was thrilled to be able to take Sumiko to that concert, as thrilled as she when they traveled to Japan for the first time later that same summer. Miyako loved her three children and gave them all that she had and could throughout her life, in spite of many personal and family difficulties. In return, they encouraged and supported her educational and career goals up until her death. They wanted her to complete her doctorate, perhaps even more than she wanted to do so herself.

Last spring my daughter, Eugenia, a writer and newspaper reporter, wrote a story for the Oberlin Alumni Magazine about how Miyako and I found ourselves as junior faculty members at Gettysburg College at the same time ["Learning and Labor Creates Soul Mates," Summer 1996 OAM]. We were both older than typical junior faculty and were completing doctoral dissertations while teaching full loads at less-than-traditional times in our lives. An interesting story angle. Miyako was excited about the project, probably more so than I. When the story was published, I read what we had said about the connection between us: "When you run into an Oberlin person, no matter in what field, you find an instant soul mate. We were glad to discover each other," and "Every time a controversial issue erupts on campus, Miyako says she finds Sharon right beside her, protesting injustice in true Oberlin style."

Miyako continued to teach, to write, and to attend to the needs of those around her right up until the end of her life. Her death came too soon. There is no question that many people will join me in missing her brilliant mind and devoted friendship. I am grateful for the short time that we had together. I only wish I had been able to say good-bye to Miyako, my special Oberlin and Gettysburg friend and soul mate, in person.

--Sharon Davis Gratto '66
Falls Church, Virginia