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Quick, articulate grandmother on cutting edge at 84 years
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin supports Ursula Belaski’s memories of Pearl Harbor, 1941, still fresh in her mind as she lived them as a teen of 17. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin
Ursula Belaski is an amazing woman.

This 84-year-old grandmother is as sharp as a tack and a terrific conversationalist. She visualizes life’s stage that she encountered as though everything happened only yesterday.

Her dreams of tomorrow seem to be filled with the anticipation of wonder and excitement for what is yet to come. I was only in her home for an hour as we chatted about her life — an hour I will never forget.

At 17 she was there at the Japanese aerial invasion of Pearl Harbor, and witnessed the dive bombers screaming down on Hickham Field, watching the attack unfold into billowing black smoke coming from the aircraft on the ground and the ships in the harbor.

She has kept the newspaper accounts published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin tucked away in her cedar chest where they were literally untouched by the ravages of time. Included are the “extra” editions — two of them — that kept the public informed on the destruction and the emergency plans for the island‘s recovery.

A special insert published the treaty of surrender signed by the Japanese — showing the exact signatures — copies of the original paperwork ending hostilities with Japan.

She and her family lived in the nearby valley where two young sisters and an uncle were killed by a bomb that fell just two blocks from their home.

Ursula told me that all of the Hawaiian men on the island were gathered up after the hostilities ended. They were put to work collecting bodies and burying them in trenches. They did not put the women to work, she said.

Met husband while he was working for US Engineers

She found a job in Machine Shop 31 in Pearl Harbor in 1942 where she was assigned to the supply room issuing tools to the workers. About a year later she married her husband William who was employed by the U.S. Engineers driving truck. They would later move to San Francisco where he joined the ranks of PG&E.

They raised six children — and when they were on their own and out of the house — they took on the responsibility of six foster children. A newspaper article on the foster family coined it, “The Raising of the League of Nations.” They were all from different cultural backgrounds — different countries.

Ursula won the distinction of “Foster Mother of the Year” for all of San Mateo County in 1960. She hosted a family reunion recently in her small Manteca home — it was filled with love, her daughter said. She has lived in Manteca for 23 years after residing in Mt. View, Santa Rosa and Union City.

On the north edge of Santa Rosa she and her husband had a little ranch where they were able to have a horse, pigs and chickens. They were there for some seven years, but were forced to move due to allergies.

An avid cook even today, she keeps her kitchen alive — every day cooking or baking something new for her children and for her grandchildren. Her greatest thrill is giving her baked goods away to friends, and even to her doctor as well as to a special office receptionist.

The grandmother watches cooking shows on television daily and has drawn one recipe grandchildren seem to enjoy the best — the Grand Girls Fresh Apple Cake. One daughter has made her a book of recipes from her favorite cooking shows — a book that she draws from constantly. She is always baking or cooking something new, her family members say.

She has a doctor’s appointment next week and she is planning to take along a couple of cheese cakes that continue to excite her family members. And, speaking of family, she is quick to point out the pictures she has on her walls — “that’s my family,” she says with definite excitement in her voice.

Daughter “Addie” Braun said her mother can cook anything: Japanese, Filipino, Puerto Rican or Chinese.

“My husband told me my rice is good — just not like your mother‘s,” she added, chuckling.

Next to the youngest of nine children, Ursula was born in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii. When she was five years old the family moved to Honolulu. She and her husband were married in 1950. This year would have been their 59th anniversary had he lived, she said pointing to his framed picture on the wall amongst other family members.

She quietly — very subtly in fact — suggested that a true Christian is a very giving person in this world. Ursula Belaski perfectly fits that profile — without a doubt.