Edward J. Rasmussen, a retired insurance broker who also translated Japanese, died June 20 of pneumonia at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was 95.
The son of J. David Rasmussen, a New York City insurance broker, and Ellamae Rasmussen, a homemaker, Edward Jeppe Rasmussen was born in Brooklyn and spent his early years in Queens before moving with his family to Scarsdale.
After graduating from Scarsdale High School in 1937, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1942 from Dartmouth College.
"The draft board left us seniors alone until graduation; then they swept us up," Mr. Rasmussen wrote in a memoir. "That summer I was in basic training for the Army Air Corps at Atlantic City and by September 1942 was assigned to Aerial Photography School, Lowry Field, Denver, Colo."
While at Lowry Field, Mr. Rasmussen learned that they were giving courses in Japanese at the University of Denver, and he and his friend Bob Lewin commuted there for classes.
Their teacher was Francise Kido, the daughter of Japanese parents, who was raised on a farm in southern Colorado where only English was spoken.
"She played with Mexican farm workers' children, so spoke Spanish, Japanese and English as a child. In high school she won the state spelling bee, spelling English words better than the best students in Denver," he wrote.
After her father's death, she joined her mother and sister in taking his ashes back to Japan. She stayed and joined the faculty of the American School, where she taught children of Americans living in Japan.
By early 1941, Americans were advised to leave Japan, and she arrived in New York City.
Mr. Rasmussen, Mr. Lewin and Miss Kido were recruited to teach Japanese at the newly established Army Language School at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where Mr. Rasmussen and Miss Kido became engaged and were married in 1943.
Mr. Rasmussen was in Hawaii when the war ended, and in 1945, the couple were transferred to the Washington Document Center.
In the late 1940s, Mr. Rasmussen joined the family business in New York City, Holly & Co. Inc. — which later became Bayly, Martin & Fay — as an insurance broker.
For 50 years, Mr. Rasmussen commuted from White Plains to New York City, where in addition to working as an insurance broker, he served as a consultant to Japanese corporations with offices in the United States. He continued to study and translate Japanese.
"At the end of World II, he was allowed to keep a journal of expressive poetry and prose kept by an anonymous Japanese platoon leader during the fighting on a mountain in the Philippines," said a daughter, Dr. Robin Rasmussen Gaber, a retired Baltimore dentist who lives in Govans.
The translation of the journal, written in calligraphy, became Mr. Rasmussen's first book, "Hell's Anvil: The Forging of a Fanatic Fighter."
"The author was a known poet in Japan, and his handwriting was known to the public as his works were published in newspapers," Dr. Gaber said.
Eventually, Mr. Rasmussen was able to locate the writer's family and identify the previously anonymous author of the diary, which he returned to them.
"Much celebration was made once the diary was returned to them," Dr. Gaber said.
Mr. Rasmussen's second book, "Siberia, Japan and WW I," traces the Mongol domination of Siberia beginning in the 13th century and ends with the withdrawal in 1925 of Japanese forces. He also wrote military and postal histories using Japanese sources and did translation work for military historians.
Mr. Rasmussen, who retired in 1994, moved from White Plains to Towson. He later resided at Atrium Village in Owings Mills, Oak Crest Village in Parkville, and at his death, was living at Brightview Senior Living in Towson.
He was a lover of classical music, cats, carpentry, gardening and literature. He donated his extensive collection of Japanese books to Towson University and sent two van loads of books to the Cella Cruz Bronx High School of Music in the Bronx, N.Y.
His wife of 61 years died in 2004.
Mr. Rasmussen willed his body to the Maryland Anatomy Board. Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.
In addition to Dr. Gaber, he is survived by another daughter, Andrea Reiko Rasmussen Walker of Fort Worth, Texas; a stepson, Matthew Wilson of Airville, Pa.; two stepdaughters, Erin Wilson of Coronado, Calif., and Mary McLean of St. Augustine, Fla.; and three grandchildren. His companion of two years, Catherine Deems, died in 2010.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun