Utako Shiraishi Dwyer, 90, of Springfield, Massachusetts, passed away peacefully in her sleep on October 15, 2022. She was born on Terminal Island, CA. and was raised in Southern California.
She graduated from the University of Redlands and went on to earn her master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. As a young social worker, Utako worked in East Harlem at Union Settlement House and on the Lower East Side at Hamilton Madison House. She met and married the Reverend William Dwyer in New York on August 5, 1961. She was an active clergy-wife, sharing inner city ministry with her husband on New York’s Lower East Side, Boston’s South End, and in Springfield, Massachusetts. While raising the family, Utako worked with parents in the Boston Public Schools and with an art project during Boston’s school desegregation. In Springfield, she worked with programs fighting for social justice and was on the staff of Johnson Life Center as a therapist working with children and adults. For the last years of professional life, Utako worked for the Department of Mental Health doing case management and monitoring state contracts.
After retirement, her volunteer work in human services continued as a tutor for ACTS, a docent at the Springfield Museums, and working in the Loaves & Fishes kitchen. Utako was an active member of Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal), participating in the Cathedral Choir, the Flower Guild, and as a lay Eucharistic visitor. She is a member of the lay order, Daughters of the King.
Utako was predeceased by her husband Rev. William Dwyer, and two sisters, Mary & Reyko Shiraishi. Utako is survived by her eldest sister, Grace Kim; three children, William K. Dwyer, Stephen I. Dwyer, and Joy Dwyer Ross; a daughter-in-law, Florence Dwyer; a son-in-law, Kevin Ross; the 5 grandsons who she loved dearly, Patrick Brandon and Cedric Jay Straughter, and William Pascal, Elliott Paul, and Ethan Stephen Dwyer; and one great-grandchild, Cedric Jr.
The calling hour is 10-11 a.m. Thursday, October 20 at Christ Church Cathedral, 35 Chestnut Street, Springfield, MA, followed by a memorial service at 11 a.m.