Mary Nakaishi and her husband Uke devoted their life’s work to helping Ogden’s poor get back on their feet and earned the reputation of Ogden’s “Angels of 25th Street.
Mary Nakaishi and her husband Uke devoted their life’s work to helping Ogden’s poor get back on their feet.
Mary was the brains and heart behind the operation. And Uke, a World War II Army veteran, supported his wife in all her charitable endeavors. They helped alcoholics, transients, and the homeless connect to social services by filling out applications for unemployment, food stamps, and Social Security. If one of the people Mary was helping had trouble holding onto money, she would keep it and dole it out as needed. She worked closely with the Problems Anonymous Action Group, which provided housing and services to the mentally ill in Weber County.
In the 1950s, Mary and Uke operated a boarding house for older men – mainly veterans – to help them get off the streets. This effort evolved into the Ogden Rescue Mission that is still in business today. From 1956 to 1982, the couple operated Uke’s Café on Ogden’s 25th Street. They opened at 4:30am every morning to feed customers who worked strange hours at odd jobs. The people who came into the café were viewed as part of the family. They kept running tabs and paid when they could. According to Uke, the café lost $300-$400 per month, often when a customer died. Instead of demanding the tab be paid out, Mary and Uke would help with funeral arrangements. Unfortunately, a prominent hotel chain forced the café to close as part of a “clean up the street” campaign. So Mary and Uke took everything that they had – stoves, tables, pots, and pans – to St. Anne’s Shelter, where they transformed the fledgling soup kitchen into a modern facility, and then worked there for years.
Recognized by Ogden City, Weber County, the State of Utah, and many local organizations, Mary and Uke Nakaishi received countless awards for service to their community. This acknowledgement only solidified their extraordinary reputation as the “Angels of 25th Street.”
Annie Bommer for the Ogden Union Station © 2017
Image: Mary Nakaishi in the kitchen of the Mother Teresa Shelter (precursor to St. Anne’s Shelter), circa 1980s. Photograph taken by and reproduced courtesy of Charles Trentelman. Mary and Uke Nakaishi received many awards for their service including: the Golden Hour’s Award, the Greater Ogden Days Citizenship Award, the Utah Civil Pin Award, three certificates from the Veteran’s Administration, the Social Services Award, the State of Utah Social Worker of the Year, Outstanding Women in Weber County, the Ogden Exchange Award, and the Women’s World Magazine Award.
See Ted Nagata, “Angels of 25th Street,” Japanese Americans in Utah, Salt Lake City: JA Centennial Committee, 1996; Ogden Standard Examiner, December 8, 1969 and June 22, 2014.