Home > Mary J. Yamamoto Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship is established in memory of Mary J. Yamamoto to support equal access to education.

Contribute online to the Mary J. Yamamoto Scholarship in her memory.

Contribute by check: please make check out to Community Foundation of Western Nevada and write “Yamamoto Scholarship” on the memo line. Send checks to:
Community Foundation of Western Nevada,
50 Washington Street, Suite 300
Reno, NV 89503

Mary Jean (Oberski) Yamamoto, a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt, neighbor, and friend, passed away on February 14, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona.  She was 67.

While on a walk with her husband Denny, Mary was struck by a car while she was standing on the sidewalk. Denny was uninjured, and with his persistence, Mary was able to carry out her wish to be an organ donor. With her family by her side, they were able to say goodbye and walk with her along her “Hero’s Parade” in the hospital on the way to the OR. She was peaceful and so brave. She is a hero.

As she lived, Mary devoted her life to caring for others and working to right the injustices of the world.  Mary was born on October 26, 1952, in Harbor Beach, Michigan. She grew up in The Thumb of Michigan on the Oberski Family dairy farm which her family has owned for the past 120 years. She excelled at school, and at the young age of 16, she attended Michigan State University (MSU) and graduated with a degree in social work.  After college, she worked to help assist with adoptions. She married Dennis Tamotsu Yamamoto from Hawaii and had twin children, Jill and Kyle. In 1990, Mary and her family moved to Reno, and she loved being part of the community for the past 30 years.

As a child from a Polish-Catholic family, Mary was raised by her hardworking parents David and Mildred Oberski who had dreams of their four children earning a college degree.  Mary’s success in school, work, and raising her family was proof that she achieved their life mission.

Mary met Denny while working at her dorm cafeteria at MSU.  She accepted his invitation for a date…to the library! Denny was even more amazed that she asked him out after that. They were 18 and 19 at the time and were together for the next 49 years.  Their wedding in 1976 in Parisville, MI was quite the event bringing one large Polish family from Michigan and one large Japanese family from Hawaii together. It was certainly a first for everyone.

Mary and Denny’s love for each other and partnership always remained strong throughout the years.  Denny’s many years of medical school, residency training, fellowship, and building a practice were taxing, but Mary was always his staunch supporter keeping things going at home.  Residency brought Mary and Denny to Madison, WI where they had their twins and lived for 12 years.

In 1990, Mary and Denny moved to Reno, NV where Dennis and his partners built their medical practice Digestive Health Associates (DHA). While supporting his career and raising her children, Mary remained independent working with local academics and athletics and the Alliance with the Washoe County Medical Society (AWCMS). Over the years, Mary and Denny continued to cherish the many friendships they made in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada.

Just like her parents, Mary had dreams of her own children attending college, and her love and support of Jill and Kyle was essential to them earning law and medical degrees respectively. Mary was their #1 fan never missing a game or event that they were involved in during school. She remained very close to them, and Jill and Kyle were so happy when their sons Jake, Roman, Tanner, and Connor were born and Mary became “Nana,” a role that she absolutely thrived in.

Although she was able to travel to many places in Europe, Asia, and North America, Mary never missed an opportunity to travel back to Michigan, Hawaii, and Washington state to visit family, which she did often. Her time with her loved ones on the beaches of Lake Michigan, Oahu, and Lake Tahoe and in the sun in Phoenix were some of her most cherished.  To Mary, bringing her various families together was the best vacation.

Mary had a passion for everybody having equal opportunities and equal resources to be successful in life.  Always youthful and energetic, Mary never “sat still.” Her hours in her vegetable garden produced a bounty for her family and neighbors every year.  She had a deep appreciation for art and music and attended every Broadway musical at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Reno. She was an expert at sewing and loved making clothes, blankets, and costumes especially for her grandsons.  She loved stargazing. She loved sports. She enjoyed playing golf with Denny and Kyle and especially women’s groups. She attended her dear neighbors’ daughters’ sports events. She had season tickets to UNR basketball games. She was a fiercely devoted fan of Michigan State athletics, especially its basketball team.  March Madness was one of her favorite sporting events and she was particularly proud when MSU won the national championship in 2000. Go Green!

Mary’s delicious cooking and lovely decorations during holidays and celebrations were very special to her family.  Mary genuinely cared about what was happening in her family members’ and friends’ lives. Chances are good that those whom Mary knew received a handwritten card from her for any significant event in their life.  They may have even received a care package! Mary was always thinking of others and their inclusion and wellbeing. That was her mantra.

Mary is survived by her husband Denny; her daughter Jill and her husband Andy Buffington and sons Jake (8) and Roman (5) from Tacoma, WA; her son Kyle and his wife Carrie (Dekoski) Yamamoto and sons Tanner (3) and Connor (1) from Reno, NV; mother Mildred Oberski from Parisville, MI; sister Elaine (Oberski) Messing her husband Harvey from Grand Rapids, MI, and their son Jason Messing, and daughters Katie (Messing) Krueger, and Anne (Messing) Meeuwsen; brother Thomas Oberski and his wife Catherine from San Antonio, TX; brother Michael Oberski and his wife Judy from Port Huron, MI and their daughters Kimberly (Oberski) Wagner and Katrina (Oberski) Kreichelt and son Nicholas Oberski; sister-in-law Louise (Yamamoto) Sakihama and her husband Ed from Torrance, CA and their sons Dean and Derek Sakihama; and sister-in-law Sandra (Yamamoto) Krivo and her husband Randy from Edina, MN and their sons Michael and Bryan Krivo.  Mary’s father David Oberski, her father-in-law Conway Yamamoto, mother-in-law Lorine Yamamoto, and brother-in-law Russell Yamamoto will meet her in Heaven.

Her family wishes to thank all the people in Mary’s life who have reached out to support them during this difficult time.

A special thank you to her dear friends Frank and Peggy Udvare, Chris and Rene Rores, and Rick and Thea Murdock. Another special thank you to Tom Dolan for his help with coordinating Mary’s services.

A memorial service in Michigan will be scheduled in late August 2020.

As a daughter of Polish dairy farmers in Michigan, Mary earned the opportunity to attend college which fundamentally changed her life.  She understood the importance of that opportunity and sought to support all children she knew to seek the same. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Mary J. Yamamoto Memorial Scholarship which will support college-bound students from Washoe County, NV and Huron County, MI.

Eligible applicants will be graduating high school seniors from Nevada and Michigan who will be attending accredited colleges, universities, or trade schools to obtain and 2 or 4-year degree, or certificate.