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Creator of Mochi Ice Cream Dies at the Age of 69

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Photo via apricot13 on Flickr
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Frances Hashimoto, the creator of the mochi ice cream balls that incessantly taunt us in the freezer isle at Trader Joe's, has passed away at the age of 69 due to lung cancer.

Hashimoto was formerly a school teacher that was convinced to take over her family's mochi business in Little Tokyo, and since then turned the seven flavors into a nationally-recognized brand. But it wasn't just her business savvy that made her so special.

Not only was Hashimoto the president of Mikawaya -- the 102-year-old, three-generation family sweets establishment on First Street in Little Tokyo -- but she was also an integral player in transforming the historic heart of Southern California's Japanese American community in the area.

Says the Times:

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Despite her business success, it was her leadership on myriad community organizations that made the biggest mark on Little Tokyo as it struggled through economic downturns and rapid demographic changes transforming the historic heart of Southern California's Japanese American community...Over four decades, Hashimoto served on the Little Tokyo Business Assn., Nisei Week Foundation, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center and various advisory committees overseeing the neighborhood's redevelopment and transportation projects. Those who worked with her said she was unstintingly generous with financial contributions and donated platters of her sweet rice cakes, baked chestnut buns and other traditional desserts for community events.

The plaza at 2nd and Azusa streets in Little Tokyo will be renamed in memorial of Hashimoto later this month, and a funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Japan America Theatre at 244 S. San Pedro St. in Downtown L.A.