Tag Archives: Francis Sueo Sugiyama

Former U.S. Senate Aide Carolyn Sugiyama Classen: Creation of National Commission which investigated the wrong done to WWII Japanese Americans

This is a recap of most of my remarks at a recent Feb. 18, 2017 Day of Remembrance event at the Tucson Desert Art Museum, where there are currently 3 ongoing art & history exhibits on the WWII internment camps. About 120,000 Japanese Americans civilians (2/3 were U.S. Citizens, ½ were children) were rounded up by the US Government and incarcerated into 10 large relocation centers in desolate parts of America (including two camps in Arizona).  It is fitting to publish these remarks today, February 19, 2017, on the 75th anniversary of the signing by President Franklin D. Roosevelt of Executive Order 9066 which caused this unjust relocation & internment.

Carolyn Sugiyama Classen speaking at Day of Remembrance, courtesy of atty. Robin Blackwood. Panelists Professors Min Yanagihashi & Kathryn Nakagawa in background.

“I am Sansei (3rd generation) from Hawaii, as my grandparents Hyakuji and Tai Sugiyama left Hiroshima and arrived in June, 1892 to the Kingdom of Hawaii before it fell in 1893.  They became impoverished, indentured servants on sugar plantations in Hawaii. My grandparents had 8 children and my father Sueo was the last and youngest.

My father was the 1st in his family to go to college (University of Hawaii at Manoa) and was unfortunately in Los Angeles at USC Dental School when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. He was summarily expelled from USC due to his race, along with other Japanese American students. My father nicknamed Francis (a U.S. Citizen) did not return home to Hawaii, but stayed in Los Angeles, later obtained a “voluntary” pass from Western Defense Command General John DeWitt and fled to Chicago. He left his belongings with a Jewish woman in L.A. and she subsequently shipped them to him. He stayed in Chicago, took classes at Loyola University, then got re-admitted to Dental School at the U. of Maryland, finishing in 1946.  (I found out later that about 5,000 others also got passes and voluntarily left the West Coast for inland states.)

Fast forward to me as a young attorney practicing law on the island of Kauai, when I decided to go to Washington D.C. to work for U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye. How did I know the Senator? He had always been in our family discussions (“Cousin Dan”), as he was married to first cousin Maggie, the 2nd of 6 daughters of Aunty Omitsu Sugiyama Awamura of Honolulu.  Aunty was my father’s 2nd oldest sister of the 8 children of my immigrant grandparents. My father had been the last born of the 8 children, and was more then 20 years younger than the oldest siblings.

Dan Inouye and cousin Maggie were married before I was even born.  Inouye was a decorated combat veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Battalion, lost his right arm in the war, had been elected as Hawaii’s first Congressman in 1959 (when Hawaii became a state).  He became a U.S. Senator in 1963, and attended by older brother’s high school graduation when I was 16 (when I first met him).

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Upcoming events regarding WWII Internment of Japanese Americans

Although it was almost 75 years ago when on Feb. 19, 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt signed E.O. 9066, which was neutral on its face, but applied only to rounding up & interning nearly 120,000 Japanese American civilians (2/3 were U.S. Citizens) into relocation camps across America — there is still interest today in the injustice done by these camps and relocation of innocent people. My father Francis Sueo Sugiyama was one of those who fled Los Angeles for Chicago in 1942, before the camp round up. (He had just been expelled from USC’s Dental School due to his race).

Event coming up Friday at the Tucson Jewish History Museum (564 S. Stone Ave.), see flyer below: Gallery Chat with poet Brandon Shimoda. “A researcher on this subject and a direct descendant of this history’s victims, Brandon will facilitate a discussion on the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans in Arizona.”


Coming up Sunday Jan. 22 at the Tucson Desert Art Museum (7000 E. Tanque Verde Rd.) is a talk entitled “Baseball Behind Barbed Wire”.

January 22, 2017 1:30 pm
Baseball was immensely important to the Japanese Americans in concentration camps. Bill Staples, author of “Kenichi Zenimura: Japanese American Baseball Pioneer”, will share how baseball helped raise the spirits of those in the camps and also helped with outside prejudice as the camps invited outside teams to play in matches. This event is free in the auditorium. Museum admission rates apply for entrance to the exhibit.”


Bill Staples – author of “Kenichi Zenimura: Japanese American Baseball Pioneer”

Kerry Yo Nakagawa – author and baseball historian, expert in Japanese American baseball

Tets Furukawa – former player/pitcher with the 1945 Gila River Eagles

Kenso Zenimura –  followed in his father’s footsteps as a talented player, coach, and mentor, as well as an ambassador for international baseball

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Learn about Japanese Americans in Hawaii

Retired East Asian Professor Min Yanagihashi has written a paper entitled “Japanese Americans in Hawaii: Acculturation & Assimilation”  about the toils and triumphs of the hard working Issei (1st generation immigrants), Nisei (2nd generation born in Hawaii), and us Sansei (3rd generation), Yonsei (4th generation), etc.  Find out more by attending an informative upcoming panel discussion on Nov. 3rd, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Himmel Park Library, 1035 N. Treat Ave.

I grew up in Hawaii, after my grandparents emigrated from Japan in 1892 and 1910 to become indentured sugar plantation workers. My parents were born there in the Trust Territory of Hawaii, as U.S. Citizens. Yet my father Francis Sueo Sugiyama was discriminated against following the attack on Pearl Harbor, because of his race –expelled as a dental student by the University of Southern California. He fled to Chicago and avoided the mass internment, but got admitted to the University of Md. Dental School and finished his degree, years later.  He then returned to Hawaii and practiced dentistry & orthodontics on the Big Island of Hawaii for 30 years.


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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.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers — biological, adoptive, foster, step, surrogate, grandmothers, greatgrandmothers, mothers-in-law,  etc.  Today is the day to thank your mother especially those who are loving and supportive. My own biological mother Fumiko died last August, 2015 so this is the first Mother’s Day without her presence on Earth.

Today we should reflect on motherhood, about our own mothers and for those of us who are mothers as well.

It is coincidentally the 20th anniversary of the day my beloved father Dr. Francis Sugiyama died, so this is a special day for me.

Being a mother is probably one of the best experiences of my life, and I am grateful for the fortune of being a mother to my wonderful son. Many of my friends are single, gay, divorced, or infertile — without children, and sadly do not know the extreme joy of birthing and guiding a child human being to adulthood. And of course there are those women who purposely chose not to have children, due to a number of personal reasons. Raising a child(ren) is very hard, rewarding work, and definitely not a task for all.

Celebrate motherhood today.  And cherish your loving mother.

And as I write these words, I want to extend my sincerest condolences to the children and grandchildren of former District 1 Pima County Supervisor Ann Day, who was killed suddenly yesterday in a car accident on Ina Rd.  She served 12 years on that board and 10 years before that as an Arizona State Senator.  Ann’s death is a vivid reminder of how precious and short life can be.  Very tragic to die a day before Mother’s Day 2016.