Elizabeth Ann Inouye Takasaki is a third generation Japanese-American born in Richfield, Utah to Buddhist parents. Ann graduated from Brigham Young University with several degrees, including Dance, Psychology, and English and also studied for a graduate degree at UCLA in music therapy. Education is very important to Ann. She served an LDS mission in Sendai, Japan, where she loved reconnecting with her heritage. She has had several opportunities to serve throughout her life, including on the international Young Women General Board for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Her favorite service, however, is to her husband, Roman, her three children, and their families. Together, they enjoy outdoor adventures like hiking, boating, biking, and traveling the world.
Elizabeth Ann Takasaki, or Ann as family and most friends call her, is a diminutive woman whose quiet grace belies the power packed into every one of her 61 inches. As chairwoman of the board of Big Ocean Women, she is a wave bursting with bubbles until she crashes and briefly rests.
At a recent leader retreat held at her home, she presented each woman with a custom-made tote bag she had designed and sewn, filled guests with restaurant-quality food she prepared, and showed her genuine pleasure in having her home filled with the confusion and chaos of strong women, like waves constantly crashing the shore.
A bit of shallow research reveals that ocean bubbles are caused by organic matter in the seawater. Having known Ann, or Liz as we called her, since junior high school, I knew some of the organic ingredients that make her a bubbly and sparkling wave. The love and influence of family, a heart of boundless compassion, her inquisitive mind and education, and her passion for life and pursuit of dreams are certainly key elements of the mixture. It was fascinating to see how this creative thinker, vivacious cheerleader and Brigham Young University Cougarette (and Belle of the Y) grew to be a dynamic force for faith, family and motherhood. Those ideals—faith, family, and motherhood—fuel her service.
It is impossible to separate Ann’s life and passion for Big Ocean from her faith in God. While serving in an international capacity for her church, she met Vilma Sagebin. Vilma solicited Ann’s help for her daughter, Carolina Allen, founder of Big Ocean. Ann’s compassionate heart, as always, led her to agree. Ann says, “I was really just trying to support the noble daughter of my dear friend, Vilma. I had no idea of the greatness of the young mother I was trying to assist. I had no idea of the importance of the work that she was trying to accomplish. I saw the work of Big Ocean Women as God’s work and continue to see it as such … as a vehicle to teach women about their innate and divine worth and about the power they have to stop the trends that threaten the institution of the family and our freedom to practice religion freely.”
The family has no more powerful advocate than Ann. She learned from her father that we must have faith to be complete and credits her brothers with showing her how to be faithful and obedient to God. Her mother taught her to have courage in the face of any circumstance; that nothing is too hard. She made this video describing the powerful impact her family, including her grandfather, had in her quest for education.
Motherhood played what appeared to be a cruel joke on her. An emergency surgery left her infertile as a young college student. Her mother’s call to courage helped her find hope and healing. She and her physician husband, Roman, eventually became parents through adoption. Anyone who knows Ann, knows that her power to be a mother and nurturer springs from an unselfish heart and pure love, not her female anatomy. Read more here. She is very connected to her immediate and extended family, serving them wholeheartedly. She hosts marvelous parties, events, and orchestrates opportunities for them to give meaningful service. While her own life was extremely full, she moved her aunt into her home, wrapping her in love as she completed the final chapters of her life. She relishes her role as grandmother and aunt as well.
She uses her maternal gifts to bless other women, particularly younger women. She has been a teacher and mentor for youth delegates of Big Ocean, preparing them to attend and present at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). When asked about her desires for these choice young women, she responded, “I want the rising generation of women to realize their divine feminine identity and to be grateful for the innate and inherent gifts they have been given by a loving God. I want them to be devoted to God and to never turn their backs on Him. I want them to be devoted to and grateful for their families – for generations before them and for the generations to come.”
Included or implied in the ideals of faith, family, and motherhood is her unquenchable zeal to serve. She loves and serves generously. She insists she has never given service without being blessed tenfold. She maintains she can never repay God and his goodness no matter how she might serve and sacrifice. Her service is varied and tireless: sewing costumes for school productions, making a wedding dress, running errands, quilting, sharing thoughtful gifts from her kitchen and her heart, feeding anyone who crosses her path, etc. A humorous note on her tireless service is that she, like any mortal, gets tired too. She goes full speed, non-stop, until she stops. It’s almost always unintentional. It can sneak up on her in the middle of a conversation, often during a movie, and sometimes mid-sentence. That is about the only time you will see this bubbly wave at rest. However, rest assured, it won’t last long and she’ll be back, rejuvenated and ready to give her all again shortly.
The Big Ocean tenet that speaks to her is that of the innate worth of every individual. “It is important that we teach the divine female identity and divine masculine identity, that this knowledge serves as a foundation upon which we can stand no matter what life brings,” Ann asserted. That connection may stem in part from the childhood concerns she describes in this Facebook post:
When I was a little girl I saw myself as a member of my family and extended family. We were all of Japanese descent. That was my self-identity: a Japanese-American girl. I was very self-conscious. I went to public school and saw that all of the other students didn’t look like me. My self-identity was challenged. Am I part of this group as well? I eventually felt that I was indeed part of this group as well.
My experiences in life have changed my self-identity and helped me understand that I am one of God’s children. Imagine that! I am one of the billions of wonderful sons and daughters of a loving Father in Heaven. I identity myself with people from Utah, California, Alabama, Japan, Mexico, Germany, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Botswana, Pakistan, and Russia – people from all over the world. I identify myself with people who are yellow, brown, black, red, white. I am becoming less self-conscious and more conscious of others.
A good way to end this story is to share, in her words, an experience that Ann described as a miracle….an example of faith, family, motherhood….and service.
“The best experiences I have had with Big Ocean are the times when I have felt God’s involvement with us – when things miraculously worked out. Last year at the UN at the Commission on the Status of Women, we faced a storm that threatened to disable our entire Big Ocean delegation. The strong winds were blowing the storm in from the east. I remember praying that those winds would blow the storm just a little farther than predicted so that the area where we needed to go could be reached and that we would have the opportunity to present what we had prepared. We went to bed with the agreement that we would see what the storm was like in the morning and determine if we could even get to the UN area. We received a call from the hotel where we had reserved a very expensive room for our presentation. Because of the storm they would refund all our money. That made it easier to give up and to not even try to get down to the UN. But in the morning, we saw snow covered streets but there were cars getting around. We decided to go ahead with our presentation. It is interesting that the roads farther north and farther west and even the roads in New Jersey were shut down. Our videographer who was staying in Brooklyn had no trouble getting into the UN area. We were able to make it. The winds had pushed the storm farther to the north and west and past the UN area. We decided to put our presentation on Facebook Live. We had over 8,000 view our presentation. People were sympathetic to our plight. They tuned in and spread the word to others to do the same. It was an absolute miracle.”
Going back to the diminutive woman, she graciously expresses thanks for our interview, but sincerely insists, “Really, though, I’m just a product of the people with whom I’ve been privileged to associate. I have been blessed beyond measure.” All who know Ann would add that her sparkle blesses all of us. What a bubble of goodness in the world’s ocean!
Written by Norma Hendrickson