Waiting for Dedication Day


The view of Gastineau Channel above the memorial in Capital School Park.

Above you can see workmen adding a rock facing to the front of the retaining wall while the chair awaits its dedication day under the crate that has been assembled to keep it from public view.

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Close-up view of the crate containing the memorial and the new rock facing on the retaining wall.

Artist Peter Reiquam attached the memorial to its base earlier this week. It sits on a concrete aggregate foundation donated by AGGPRO. The last touch was added to the memorial when Alaska Stone and Concrete placed a stone facing, which they donated to the project, on the front of the sitting wall.

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A close-up of the rock facing on the wall.


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A view from the east side of the memorial site.

Below you see some of the cranes that are waiting to “fly in” for the ceremony. Everything is in readiness and now we are just waiting for July 12th to arrive so we can celebrate the dedication of the Empty Chair Memorial!


Half of the 1,000 cranes.


The Empty Chair On Its Way

Peter Reiquam has informed us that the memorial he has created for the Empty Chair Project is on its way from the Seattle area to Juneau on a Samson Tug and Barge courtesy of Jim Williams and his company North Pacific Erectors. Peter will be arriving the week of June 23rd to attach the chair to its platform on its site in Capital School Park. It will be kept “under wraps” until the dedication ceremony at 2:00 o’clock on July 12th.


The Empty Chair boxed up in Seattle and ready to be shipped to Juneau.


Peter Reiquam taking the memorial to the docks

In Juneau Jim Triplette’s crew, Andy Pekovich, and Roger and Karleen Grummett are hard at work readying the site in Capital School Park for the arrival of Peter and the memorial.

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On the left, Jim Triplette is directing traffic as John Dybdahl (middle) and Tom Dougherty (right) level the area where the chair will sit.

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The area behind the retaining wall has now been filled in and the leveled section in front is ready to be filled with concrete.



Loren Hope, Tom Dougherty, Andy and Roger trying out the “sitting wall”.

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Karleen pruning the pesky, prickly… but lovely… Sitka roses.


Roger and Andy replacing the sod behind the retaining wall.

As I write, the crew is waiting to pour concrete because the rain has decided to pour instead! Next, the exposed wall will be covered with a rock face. It’s all coming together beneath the beautiful backdrop of Mt. Juneau.



The Forced Removal & Resettlement of Juneau’s Japanese Community, 1941-1951

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On June 2, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum opened its anticipated Empty Chair exhibit focusing on the Juneau Japanese people who were forcibly removed and incarcerated in 1942 at Minidoka Internment Camp, Idaho. The collective reflections include information about each family’s life before, during and after confinement. The eight featured families, who consented to share their experiences, include those of Kiichi (Henry) Akagi, Hikohachi Fukuyama, Torao (Bob) Kanazawa, Haruo (Ham) Kumasaka, Saburo (Sam) Kito, Katsutaro (Slicker) Komatsubara, Sam and Gim Taguchi and Shonosuke Tanaka.

The exhibit’s posters tell each family’s story with accompanying photographs, documents and letters, lending gravity to the displays. Their stories recall how friendships with people in Juneau helped them hold onto hope and build new lives again upon their release. Also showcased are crafted items made at Minidoka from available materials such as wood or onion sacks and local historical artifacts like a laundry bag from the Juneau Laundry when it was owned by the Fukuyama family.

Juneau artist Fumi Matsumoto created seven mixed media pieces depicting the physical and emotional isolation of the camps adding an underlying emotional element to the exhibit. (View some of these pieces that were featured earlier in this blog by scrolling down a few paces.)

A station giving directions and materials for making cranes, a symbol of peace, are offered to all visitors. Also in the exhibit, a suitcase filled with cranes contributes an element of color and hope to an otherwise somber and thoughtful reflection on this regrettable portion of American history.

The museum is the site of a public reception the day of the Empty Chair Memorial Dedication on July 12, 2014, from noon to 5pm. Their Empty Chair exhibit will run through October 26, 2014.

Please visit and add your crane to the mix!

Breaking Ground

After removing sod from the memorial site, the next step, completed by volunteer Jerry Godkins, Jr. on Monday, June 9, was to excavate dirt from the site with heavy equipment in preparation for placement of a retaining wall and a cement pad to be used as a base under the memorial.

Jerry Godkin Jr. beginning to excavate dirt to provide a space for the footings to construct the retaining wall and provide a level space for the cement pad the memorial will sit on.

Jerry Godkin Jr. beginning to evacuate a space for the footings that will serve as a retaining wall behind the memorial.


Two thirds of the retaining wall will be underground. They are almost ready to place the form that will be used to hold the concrete as it dries.


Jerry Godkin measuring the depth of the excavation with Roger Grummett.


Today, June 10, was the day for placing the form into the dug space. The form was  constructed by volunteer Jim Triplette of Triplette Construction. It will be filled with concrete to shape the retaining wall into a semi-circle around the sides and back of the Empty Chair.


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In the hole are Tom Dougherty of Triplette Construction and his crew making sure the ground is level before placing the form. Roger watches from the sidelines.


Easy does it!


In goes the form, ready for concrete to be poured tomorrow. The chair and its base will sit on a concrete pad that will be created on the level surface to the left of the excavation.

Here’s my favorite picture….the view from the site of the chair through the arm of the excavator and down to the channel with a ship coming into port.


Ship approaching Juneau.

Thanks to Karleen Grummett for all these wonderful pictures and information that keep us in the loop.








Cranes, Cranes and More Cranes

Joyce Hall happily counting cranes!

Joyce Mill happily counting cranes!

One of the awe-inspiring results of the drive for a memorial has been the many distant and unexpected volunteers who want to support us in our endeavors. A case in point is the overwhelming number of origami cranes who have “flown in” to Juneau from as far away as Hawaii, Washington, California, Nebraska, Ohio, Vermont and Canada.

Tina Kobayashi’s home is in Juneau, but she’s been spending a great deal of time in Hawaii. Wanting to support the Empty Chair Project, she began folding cranes while watching television and ended up sending us 1,283 of them. Go Tina! You will notice that one of Tina’s strings of cranes below is in blue and gold foil, the colors of Alaska’s flag.

Tina Kobayashi's cranes.

Tina Kobayashi’s cranes.

Masako Fukawa, an author from British Columbia, Canada, visited Juneau last summer and learned about the Empty Chair Project from a Juneau Convention and Visitors Center volunteer. After returning home, she e-mailed us to ask if she could donate some cranes. Her goal was 72 to mark the 72nd year since the internment, but she got enthused and exceeded her goal! (Crane folding can become habit forming.) Over 100 cranes arrived folded by members of her family.

Masako_001As Masako told it, “The cranes were folded mostly by my granddaughters on Mother’s Day – Kaya Kurz 16 years old, Tara Kurz, 13, (and) Bryn Fukawa, 10. Others who contributed were Ellen Kurz, Anya Bailey (mothers), Eleanor Osborne and Masako Fukawa (grandmothers).”

Students at Harborview School, Juneau, Alaska.

Students at Harborview School in Juneau, Alaska.

Annie Caulfield, a counselor at Harborview Elementary in Juneau, sent this photo of her students with the cranes they made into a beautiful hanging work of art. They are sending their extras to us.


Kokyo Taiko (Japanese Drumming Group)

Here are the smiling faces of Julie Abo’s Japanese Drumming Group in Lincoln, Nebraska, displaying the cranes they folded for their contribution to the dedication ceremony on July 12th.

In addition, we have received cranes from Miya Cline and her daughter Rebekah Kovach in Vermont, who heard about our efforts through an order we placed with her on-line, and Marianne Argetsinger Derr, a former Juneau High School student, whose cranes were folded at a Quaker meeting in Ohio. And, of course, we have the continuing efforts of our committee.

Jackie Triplette, Joyce Hall and Betty Marriott stringing cranes for the dedication.

Jackie Triplette, Joyce Mill and Betty Marriott stringing cranes for the dedication.

All in all, we’ve had over 2,500 cranes arrive ahead of schedule. At this rate we’ll be surrounded by good fortune, harmony and peace at our dedication.

Thank you one and all. We are truly grateful. May good fortune and peace flow back to you.