Sadako Sato Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 21, 1922, the youngest child of Grace and Takayuki Sato’s four girls, Tamao, Shigao, Takako and Sadako, and one boy, Takayuki Jr. The family lived near Central Square in Cambridge where the children participated in the rich educational and cultural offerings in the Greater Boston area. Sadako and her sisters studied ballet at what is now the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts. The family was active in the Episcopal church and other community activities.
Following high school, Sadako entered the field of nursing. Her older sister, Takako, had broken the race barrier at Cambridge City Hospital in Massachusetts where a three-year diploma degree program in nursing became eligible to black nurses in the early 1940’s. Sadako received her RN degree in the mid-1940’s and used her skills initially as a public health nurse, an “eye-opening experience”, in the various neighborhoods of Boston before settling into private duty and floor nursing at multiple Boston area hospitals including Massachusetts General Hospital.
In 1946, Sadako married Melvin Felix Holmes of Everett, MA and they had three children, Melvin Peter, Bradley Paul and Cherie Ann. The family lived in Malden, MA and enjoyed many happy years together. After Melvin’s death in 1981 Sadako found strength in her children, extended family and friends and her work, always the giving mother, sister, aunt and eventually grandmother.
As nursing transitioned in the 1960’s and 1970’s to four-year baccalaureate programs, three-year diploma nurses like Sadako could maintain their RN status but were denied eligibility to become baccalaureate nurses without repeating their schooling from the beginning. Undeterred, Sadako, who had been slowly completing courses at Boston University and Northeastern University, completed a BS in Hospital Administration at Northeastern with a Kennedy Scholarship while continuing to work as a nurse. Unable to pursue a Master’s in Nursing without the baccalaureate degree, Sadako was accepted into the first class of the Master’s Degree in Public Health at Boston University, graduating with her MPH in 1980. She challenged herself by teaching Medical-Surgical nursing at Salem Hospital School of Nursing and subsequently worked as an administrator at Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center in Boston. Sadako then took on new challenges. She joined the Boston-based management team of the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) and became the national Executive Director.
In the late 80s, Sadako moved NBNA to Washington DC to strengthen its role as a national advocacy organization. She believed this was the logical next step to advance African American nurses in the medical field, especially given new areas of specialization. She also saw it as an opportunity to enhance NBNA’s influence to improve healthcare and clinical outcomes. Among her milestones was growing the organization from 9 to 29 chapters and upgrading the national conference to encourage chapter-wide participation. During her tenure the annual conference was held in Nassau, Bahamas, drawing in international nurses.
She graciously volunteered her time and meeting planning skills, cultivated during her years with the NBNA, to the deployed US Navy medical officers on the hospital ship USNS Comfort during the first Persian Gulf War. She selflessly travelled to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and facilitated, on-site, a pre-war Christmas holiday gathering and hotel stay for the Comfort’s officers while the ship was docked in port. It was a memorable event and appreciated by the Comfort’s officers at the start of the war, and by the officers of other ships in port from England, Canada and Australia.
Sadako was fun-loving too. She often organized family events, picnics, parties, camping trips and beach outings. She was also an avid traveler, touring Japan, China, Thailand, Europe, Lebanon, Africa, the Mediterranean and Caribbean – and celebrated her 90th birthday on an Alaskan cruise with her children, their spouses and her grandson. For many years after retirement, she enjoyed spending winter and early spring months in her second home on Grand Bahama Island, where she was active in the local community and often joined by her children, and the extended family “Spring Breakers” group.
In addition, Sadako was quite a painter, taking lessons at Massachusetts College of Art and from an accomplished local artist in the Walpole, NH area. Completing works well into her 100th year, her subjects included New England landscapes, birds, animals, and special grand-dog, Cleopatra.
Sadako was loved and appreciated by many people from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., the Bahamas, New York to the UK and beyond. She had a special relationship with her mother, sisters and nieces on both the Sato and Holmes sides of the family. She was also devoted to her beloved grandson Brandon. Ever the stylish lady, she is beloved among family and friends for her intelligence, keen observations, joy of life, and generous caring for all.
Sadako is survived by her sons, Melvin Peter Holmes and Bradley Paul Holmes, and her daughter, Cherie Ann Holmes, as well as daughters-in-law Sally Holmes, Loretta Polk and Yvonne Goldsberry, and grandson Brandon Holmes. She also leaves behind several generations of nieces, nephews, cousins, step grandchildren, and many other dear family and friends.