STERLING, Kan. (KSNW) — 102 years ago, Cooper Memorial College was renamed Sterling College. Eight years later, on the other side of the world, Yasuko Blake was born in Tokyo.

“I’m 93, and on November 2nd, I’ll be 94,” said Mrs. Blake.

Mrs. Blake was born in 1928. She came to the states in 1952 and eventually settled in Sterling, where her brother-in-law had a farm south of town. She’s worked in the college cafeteria since 2015.

“I just love every one of them. They call me Mrs. Blake. ‘How are you?’ ‘How are you doing today?’ That’s the day I have every day,” said Mrs. Blake.

BreAnna Briggs, Mrs. Blake’s granddaughter, traveled from Texas to Sterling to take her grandmother to the Kansas State Fair.

“She’s only taken one summer off in her entire life. She’s worked all the time, and I don’t think she’s going to stop,” said Briggs.

The little lady behind the counter has led a remarkable life. She lived through World War II and witnessed the end of it. She was a 17-year-old teenager when the U.S. dropped the only atomic bombs in human history on her home country.

“We tried to run to an underground house, but it was three miles from the house to there,” said Mrs. Blake. “I just cried because I’m not going to live tomorrow.”

“After they dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were dropping little pieces of white paper telling the Japanese to surrender, and she remembers all of that,” said Briggs.

Mrs. Blake married an American serviceman. She had four daughters, and she worked as many as five jobs at a time.

Not everyone was convinced Mrs. Blake is still serving dinner six nights a week in the Sterling cafeteria.

“Yeah, so the IRS didn’t believe she was still working at 93, and they sent her a letter telling her she had to prove that she was actually still working. It was a whole process so she could get her tax return this last year, which was crazy,” said Briggs.

And she doesn’t plan to quit anytime soon.

“I don’t like to just sit in the house,” said Mrs. Blake. “I need to do something to keep me occupied. Do something.”


If you would like to nominate a story idea about a remarkable Kansan, email KSN reporter Jason Lamb at jason.lamb@ksn.com.