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By Steve Steinberg
Mia Hatakeyama, who owned the popular Mia's Flowers on Church Street for some 14 years, passed away on July 7, 2008, after a brave fight with ovarian cancer. Hatakeyama, who was only 53, had been diagnosed with cancer in November of 2006.
Friends and former employees characterized Hatakeyama as a warm, sincere, and generous person.
"She was one of the most giving people I ever met," said longtime friend and Church Street neighbor Tom Mogensen. "She knew how to draw people together."
Mogensen said he and Hatakeyama shared a passion for flowers that went beyond the commercial considerations of her business. He would often bring a gift of an unusual plant species to her shop, and she would send him home with a present of flowers.
Miguel Torres, who was an employee and manager of the store for four years, described her as "having a sense of almost childlike wonder about the world." He felt her attitude stemmed from the fact that she had survived breast cancer 20 years before. "She lived every day as if it were her last." Torres said he was a "little bit shocked" by her death, as he hadn't known that the cancer had returned.
Another former store employee, Jill Alcantar, called Hatakeyama the "sweetest soul," who was always solicitous about her employees and would even cook dinner for them. "She made the shop into a family," she said. Alcantar, who worked at Mia's Flowers for six years, noted that one of the shop's workers named her child "Mia" in honor of Hatakeyama.
Alcantar said she had been able to visit her ex-employer for a few minutes at her home in Moss Beach a week before she died.
At Mia's Flowers--which was located where the When Modern Was furniture store is now, at 1504 Church near 27th Street--Hatakeyama worked side by side with her husband Glenn Rivera, who also handled Mia's corporate customers. The two wed on a local radio station on Valentine's Day, 1999, and lived for years on the premises of the Noe Valley business. They sold the shop in June of 2005, telling disappointed customers they were planning to dedicate themselves full-time to caring for their aging parents. The couple retired to Moss Beach, where besides helping her parents, Hatakeyama pursued such interests as fishing, biking, abalone diving, and later photography.
Born in Fresno in 1954, Hatakeyama was the youngest of three siblings and the only girl. She moved to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University, graduating with a degree in business administration. Not satisfied with the corporate world, Hatakeyama decided to go to work for herself and opened Mia's Flowers in 1991. It would become her dream business, blossoming into a huge success.
A Buddhist service was held for Hatakeyama on July 27. A celebration of her life, attended by 120 people, was held at her home in Moss Beach on Aug. 9. Besides her husband, she is survived by her mother, a stepdaughter, two brothers, and numerous nieces and nephews. Her father died last year.