She was born on a U.S Army military base in Japan in 1955 to Tatsumi and Keiko (Nancy) Saruwatari, who moved to Hilo, Hawaii, when she was 6 months old. Iris graduated from Hilo High School and then attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa where she received a B.A. in education in 1977. She continued her education at the University of Arizona and received an M.Ed. in deaf education in 1978. For the next 21 years, she worked as an elementary and junior high school special education teacher and served as a strong advocate for disadvantaged girls and boys in Arizona, California, Oregon and Illinois. For the past 14 years, she worked as an assistant scientific investigator at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University.
Iris is survived by her husband of 35 years, Robert Handa, a resident of Windsor, and her son, Aaron Handa, a medical student living in California. She brought great joy to our lives. In her memory, donations can be made to the Japanese American Citizens League, 1765 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94115, or online at https://jacl.org/donate/.