David Mas Masumoto and how a funeral home worker tracked down a family — and uncovered a decades-old secret

Growing up, Mas Masumoto was vaguely aware that he had an aunt who’d been separated from the family in the 1940s. Her name was Shizuko Sugimoto, and she had an intellectual disability. As was often done in those days, she became a ward of the state. The family never talked about her, and assumed she had passed away.

But one day in 2012, Masumoto received a surprising phone message from a funeral home worker named Renée Johnson. 

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