Pat Morita, a Japanese-American actor known for his role as Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid died in November, 2005 at a hospital in in Las Vegas. He was 73 years old.
Morita died of kidney failure after a long stint in the hospital. According to People Magazine, “After being hospitalized on Halloween, Morita developed a severe bladder and urinary tract infection.” His health rapidly deteriorated in his later years due to his drinking problems.
Morita’s Struggles With Alcoholism
Morita dealt with alcohol addiction for almost his entire life. According to his third wife Evelyn Guerrero in More Than Miyagi, a documentary about Morita’s life, “You have to understand, he was drinking since the age of 12. His father was an alcoholic, his grandfather was an alcoholic,” she says. “His grandfather was making bootleg sake in the internment camp and keeping everybody wasted. And of course the children had nothing better to do.”
The battle with alcoholism was a struggle that Morita could not overcome, whether he wanted to or not. While talking to People Magazine following Morita’s death Guerrero revealed that she had checked him into rehab a year prior to his death. “He relapsed big time,” she says. “[The doctors] warned him if he continued to drink, he would die.”
She told People that on his deathbed he told her “I tried. I can’t do it. I’m an addict.” She also said that the night before his death he said “Evi, you have to let me go. I gotta go home now. I gotta be with Redd Foxx and all those funny guys up there in the sky.”
Morita’s Early Life and Traumas
Morita was born in Isleton, California on June 28, 1932. Both of his parents emigrated from Japan, his mother in 1913 and his father in 1915. Morita’s childhood was difficult. He was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis when he was two and was told he would never walk again. He spent the next 8 years away from his parents, living in hospitals like the Weimar institute outside of Sacramento and the Shriners hospital in San Francisco.
Evelyn Guerrero, Morita’s third wife, said in More than Morita that Morita had a lot of abandonment issues as a result of his hospitalization and being raised by his aunt.
“He was an abandoned child, he had a lot of abandonment issues because he was an unwanted child. The mother he thought raised him was really his aunt. It was his aunt’s sister that was really his biological mother.”
“And how convenient was it that he just happens to get sick at the age of two. Now they just sent him away so it’s like let’s just get rid of the problem.”
A lot of his issues with alcohol were a result of his childhood trauma. He was never able to overcome many lifelong issues.
With the help of experimental surgery Morita regained his ability to walk when he was 11 years old. Upon his release he was immediately taken to the Gila River internment camp in Arizona to rejoin his family. He was eventually moved to the Tule Lake war relocation center in northern California. When the war ended and his family was released from internment they settled in the Bay Area area, and eventually moved to Sacramento.