Happy Father’s Day 2016


DadOver 20 years ago my beloved biological father Dr. Francis Sueo Sugiyama passed away. He had been sick for about a month, in and out of the hospital, but his death was unexpected. He was only 81, and had intended to live to 90.  Sadly, he did not, but he died of old age nonetheless, not due to any cancer or other terminal illness. He had practiced dentistry and orthodontics in our home village in North Kohala, Hawaii for over 30 years.

And Dad was also an artist of Hawaiian landscapes and  painted beautiful images on smooth rocks. Happily he was also a world traveler and had been retired for 20 years. This was success for my father, as he had grown up very poor, the youngest of 8 children to immigrant sugar plantation indentured servants/workers from Hiroshima, Japan. He told me that he and his siblings had to walk to elementary school barefoot in rural Trust Territory of Hawaii.  When my father was 12 years old, one of his teenaged older brothers (Mitsuto) was dragged and killed by a sugar plantation mule.  One of his older sisters (Helen Hayayo) later died after giving birth to her 5th child on the rural island of Molokai, but such was the life of sugar plantation families.

In Spring, 1942 he was expelled from USC Dental School (due to his race, following the Pearl Harbor attack) and was given a “voluntary pass” & fled Los Angeles by train for Chicago, barely escaping the internment of his fellow Japanese Americans.  He persevered and got readmitted to the University of Maryland Dental School and moved to Baltimore a year/half later. After Dental School he returned to his home town to practice dentistry and met my mother there. He was also the last of his siblings to die, so he was the last to be born and the last to die. Fittingly, his Japanese name Sueo means “last one.”

Missing my father on Father’s Day 2016, and his 20th anniversary of his death was on May 8 — Mother’s Day 2016.  He had been supportive of me, his only daughter.

Cherish your loving father, if you have one. And if you don’t, become one.  My husband Albrecht is a loving father to our son, so I certainly appreciate that as well.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers – biological, adoptive, foster, step, fathers-in-law, grandfathers, greatgrandfathers, etc.   Enjoy your special day.

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Carolyn Classen
Carolyn Sugiyama Classen, a life long Democrat, was born & raised in the State of Hawaii, was a Legislative Aide for U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye on Capitol Hill, and practiced law for a while. In Tucson she worked as a tribal staff attorney for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and later was the Interim Executive Director of the now defunct Domestic Violence Commission. In 2008 she became a “My Tucson” guest columnist for the Tucson Citizen newspaper, then continued blogging for Tucsoncitizen.com for over four and a half years. Her blogsite was entitled “Carolyn’s Community” about community events and some political news, until Gannett Publishing shut down the site on January 31, 2014. She started with Blog for Arizona on Feb. 11, 2014. Part time she has been sitting as a Hearing Officer in Pima County Consolidated Justice Courts Small Claims Division since April, 2005. She is married to University of Arizona Distinguished Professor Albrecht Classen, a native of Germany. They have one son, who lives in Seattle, WA with his wife and daughter. She is also the Editor of the Southern Arizona Japanese Cultural Coalition website, www.southernazjapan.org (since Jan. 2013).


  1. Thank you so sharing your father’s story. I’m sorry for you loss. My father passed away 12 years ago and I miss him very much.

    • Thanks for commenting as well, Lorena about missing your father. We were indeed lucky daughters to have been fathered by men whom we miss. I hear stories from others of their brutal fathers or men who could not express love.

  2. Thank you for sharing this remarkable story about your father….they are so special. I share your good wishes for all the fathers out there…a father, or even father figure, can mean the world to a child growing up. Thank them and cherish them.

    • Thanks for commenting Cheri. I have not written about my father before, but now that 20 years has past, it seemed time. I was a lucky girl to have such a loving father, and I appreciated him a lot.

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