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Wednesday, August 12, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Rev. Ai Chih Tsai Led With Kindliness

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

The Rev. Ai Chih Tsai's name means "compassionate wisdom," says his daughter BiHoa Caldwell of Seattle.

It is appropriate because the Rev. Tsai, a longtime minister of the Seattle Japanese Congregational Church, was known for his caring.

"He really liked the visitation part of his ministry," said Caldwell. "One church member whose mother became ill talked about how my father . . . had gotten to the hospital before she (the daughter) did."

A native of Tainan province, Taiwan, the Rev. Tsai came from a long line of compassion. His father and two brothers were doctors.

"He enjoyed working with people, helping and ministering," Caldwell said. "His father came from a Presbyterian mission background."

The Rev. Tsai died Thursday (Aug. 6) of heart failure. He was 84.

He grew up wanting to be a physician. But his father suggested he pursue other avenues because there were enough doctors in the family.

The Rev. Tsai earned a bachelor's degree in religion at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, in 1937. He then traveled to the University of Chicago to earn a master's degree in 1940 and a doctor-of-divinity degree in 1941.

After ordination in 1942, he assumed an interim ministry at Japanese Church of Christ in Chicago, then worked as a translator for the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Later he worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in China.

The Rev. Tsai moved to Seattle in 1948 to become pastor of the Japanese Congregational Church, where he served first- and second-generation Japanese-American congregations until retiring in 1979.

The Rev. Tsai enjoyed family outings, particularly camping trips to the beach, where he dug for clams, or to the mountains, where he gathered mushrooms. He was an excellent cook, said his son, Peter Tsai of Seattle.

"He also followed football, especially the Huskies," said his son. "And he liked playing bridge. He memorized all the cards."

Other survivors include his wife of 55 years, Ryo Morikawa Tsai of Seattle; children Bilin Poe of Duluth, Minn., and Bisim Lee of Bellevue; brother Ai Yi of Seattle; sister Heng Wu of New Jersey; and seven grandchildren.

Services are scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church, 3001 24th Ave. S., Seattle.

Remembrances may go to the Japanese Congregational Church Building Fund, 305 17th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98144.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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