Audrey Tsuruda

The following obituary was written by Robert D. Dávila and appeared in the Sacramento Bee on Wednesday, July 27th. Audrey Tsuruda was the program designer and graphic artist during the first few years of JayRob’s seventeen season run. She began her involvement with JayRob, designing the program for the final production of the second season, ‘The Moon is Blue,” and did all of the programs during JayRob’s third season opening the Little Theatre in the Memorial Auditorium. You can see some of Audrey’s designs on this website by clicking on Season Two and Season Three programs in the footer, below.

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Obituary: Audrey Tsuruda was renowned graphic designer

By Robert D. Dávila

Audrey Tsuruda, a Sacramento graphic designer and advertising executive whose clients included local businesses and national politicians, died July 15 of cancer, her family said. She was 82.

Once an aspiring design student at Sacramento Junior College, Mrs. Tsuruda broke into a male-dominated profession in New York in 1952 with a reputation for talent that had earned her a spot at the prestigious Parsons School of Design. Hired as one of the first female designers at Donald Deskey Associates, she developed packages for Procter & Gamble products.

After marrying Tom Tsuruda of Sacramento, she returned to California in 1954 and made her name in graphic design. Her distinctive creations included the bright blue-and-green logo painted on Teichert Construction trucks.

She co-founded Tsuruda/Read and Others Advertising in 1964 and handled top business clients, including Frank Fat’s restaurant, Niello Volkswagen and the Mansion Inn.

The firm became one of the first in California to specialize in political campaigns and was hired by prominent Democrats, including Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, Pat Brown, Phil Isenberg and Joe Serna.

In 1979, Mrs. Tsuruda started her own agency, Tsuruda Group Inc. She was honored as 1983 small-business person of the year by the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

A charming, stylish woman who enjoyed meeting people, she was active in professional and civic groups.

She co-founded the Sacramento Art Directors Club and was a leader with the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and the California Historical Preservation Society. She also volunteered as a long-term care ombudswoman.

“Everybody loved Audrey,” said her former business partner, Maurice Read. “She was very friendly and very cosmopolitan, and she had a great design sense. People responded to that.”

Mrs. Tsuruda’s sensibilities were influenced by a rich multicultural upbringing. Born in 1928 in New York, Audrey May Yee was the daughter of a Chinese immigrant father and American Indian mother. After her parents divorced, her father placed her in foster care with an African American family who raised her in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

In 1944, she moved to Sacramento with her father, Kim John Yee, who was the first Chinese resident in Sacramento County to seek U.S. citizenship following repeal of the 1882 Exclusion Act. He later
opened a Hawaiian barbecue restaurant at 17th and L streets, John’s Rendezvous. She graduated from Sacramento High School and Sacramento Junior College.

Mrs. Tsuruda had three children with her husband, a career Sacramento Army Depot worker who died in 1984. She traveled to 32 countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas and wrote an autobiography, “The Looking Glass Child.”

“She wanted to share her story in her own words,” said her daughter, Valerie Goodman. “It’s unique, and she wanted to leave it for her children and grandchildren.”

More Information

  • Audrey Tsuruda

Born: Nov. 13, 1928

Died: July 15, 2011

Survived by: Sons, Steven of Vallejo, and Jay of Pasadena; daughter, Valerie Goodman of Rolling Hills Estates; half-brother, Kwok Yen Yee of Sacramento; and six grandchildren

Services: Private

In memory: Donations may be made to the Asian Community Center, 731 Greenhaven Drive, Sacramento, CA 95831, for the Lifelong Learning Program.

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