Honorees and their families say thank you…in their own words.
Dear Empty Chair Committee, Greg Chaney, Peter Reiquam, Members of the Juneau Community, I would like to express my most heartfelt gratitude for all of the work you have done over these past two years. There were so many amazing details, such as the folded cranes, Karleen’s historical program, the reception at Silverbow Bakery (originally Messerschmidt’s bakery), the media coverage, the tour of the original site of the Juneau Douglas High School, the poster and postcards we were given at the museum, and the list goes on. I was so moved by Peter Reiquam’s Empty Chair piece, the Juneau Douglas City Museum exhibit, Greg Chaney’s film and by the outpouring of support from family, friends and community members. I was inspired by the firsthand accounts by the internees who came to the Empty Chair dedication, including my aunt and my mother. I was inspired by the people of Juneau who supported my mother’s family and others during and in the aftermath of World War II. I was inspired by the friendship between Margie Alstead Shackleford and my mother Mary Tanaka Abo. I was inspired by what a community can do in the name of peace, love and humanity. I am inspired by you all and gladdened that my children can see what simple kindness can do for a community and future generations. I feel as though I have been given a gift of a lifetime and I will share this story as often as I can!
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
In deepest gratitude,
Thank you so much for all of the work on the Empty Chair Project.
It was so memorable in so many good ways.
I kept thinking of my friend and classmate Gary Komatsubura.
(Gary passed away this last winter.)
I know all the Japanese-American internees and their families felt honored with the Empty Chair Memorial at the Capital School Park. From the beginning to the end, the flurry of events planned by the town and the Empty Chair Committee kept us in a constant state of marvel and pride.
On my last visit to the Empty Chair Memorial before leaving, I saw a circle of cranes still intact despite the rains and a few rose petals on the bronze chair. This vision made me realize we will be remembered. Thank you.
With deepest gratitude,
Mary (Tanaka) Abo
So good to have met you, Jackie, Betty, Marie, Marjorie and so many more folks. Before more time has passed I want to let you and all the people who worked on the Empty Chair Project know how grateful we are for your heartwarming reception of our family and all the honorees of the Empty Chair. My dad was truly overwhelmed by the event and he keeps saying how glad he was to have gone to Juneau. He can’t believe that the “little town of Juneau” could have put on such a big event! Dad’s enthusiasm, his flood of memories that he didn’t realize he had, have left a lasting impression on our sons too.
Our sons have posted pictures of our trip and the dedication on Facebook and they have been receiving wonderful comments from their friends. So many friends have asked me about the dedication. Cousins have expressed their regret for not going. I know that there is so much more I want to say, but I wanted to get out a quick “Thank you”. Please pass on our heartfelt thank you to everyone from us.
Nancy Albright (Walter Fukuyama’s daughter.)
Thanks to you and everyone on the committee for doing such a great job. I’m
sorry we weren’t there to help celebrate but it looked like you had a great
crowd and lots of fun. We appreciate the efforts that both of you made to keep
us informed and thank you, Karleen, for sending us copies of the program. That
was beautifully done. Hopefully, we will see Mary this weekend as we are having
a graveside service in Seattle to inter my mom’s and Gary’s ashes in the family
plot. We are also having our first family reunion of mostly our generation
families on my mother’s side – will be a busy weekend – and we just returned
from visiting friends in Canada.
I’m sure you are both enjoying the freedom of a successful years long project.
Again, congratulations and thank you also for the blog entries. Lots of fun to
see the familiar faces and keep abreast of the project.
Thank you Empty Chair Project Committee for all your commitment, energy, and perseverance in putting together the Empty Chair Project and Dedication. Thank you Juneau city community for all your love and support from the past, to the present, and to the future. We were amazed and so appreciative of the welcome home and will forever hold Juneau in our hearts as the most blessed homeland of our family and relatives. May the story and project touch the lives of many just as it has ours.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you,
From all of the Japanese American families and relatives who came to Juneau for the dedication of The Empty Chair ( including Tanaka, Abo, Hikido, Fukuyama, Taguchi families)
Jeanne and Cathy Tanaka (Widow and daughter of John Tanaka)
We’ve been back in San Jose for a week now, and are still thinking about what a great experience the Empty Chair weekend was for everyone. Everything about it was perfect in the way it captured the spirit of the people of Juneau, refusing to let the injustice of the relocation of the Japanese American families and individuals during World War II go unnoticed. I had heard stories from my mom about how the town had welcomed them back after the war and helped them get back on their feet, so I knew of the kindness of the people up there. It must have been that same spirit that provided the energy needed to enable the whole thing to come to fruition. It was apparent that a huge amount of planning went into making the Empty Chair go from idea to reality, it must have been a major exercise in project management, what with all the different aspects of this project, from obtaining the grant funds, to commissioning the sculpture to planning the dedication event itself.
Elaine and I wanted to say thanks for all your work in making this wonderful project become a reality. To me, the real significance of the story is the way the people of Juneau rallied to support its own, but the tribute to those Japanese Americans who had to leave their home, including members of the Tanaka family, was a most touching remembrance as well. Thank you for your energy, persistence, and passion in making it happen.
All the best
Rob and Elaine Hikido
Congratulations on the wonderful Empty Chair dedication and ceremony last week.
It was a wonderful ceremony and I know that you all put in countless hours of
effort. I just wanted to thank you and congratulate you. Coming from
California, I got a real feeling of the Juneau community and how you all support
each other, no matter your background or situation. I think the ceremony, the
museum exhibit and the documentary film really showcased that theme. So, thank
you very much for everything. Take care and hope you find another project so
more can benefit from your talents!
Thank you to you and the Empty Chair Committee for an outstanding job for providing the leadership to accomplish such a wonderful tribute to a person who was taken away from his community during the 2nd World War. I am very thankful to be included in the dedication. And a special thank you for including my Granddaughter in the ceremony. The community of Juneau has reason to be proud to be able to look to the future by remembering the past. Also Greg’s documentary was very well done and I am sure that my family will appreciate watching it. I would appreciate it if you could forward this thank you to the committee .
Sam Kito Jr.
Thank you so much for the heart and soul you put into the Empty Chair Project. I’ve been following all your great work from San Francisco and was able to attend the recent dedication ceremony. It’s very meaningful for me as a Tanaka descendant. It’s been fascinating and wonderful to hear all the stories of our family and the Juneau community over the last couple years. I enjoyed hearing about all the acts of kindness: the special graduation ceremony, the chocolate cake sent to camp, the care packages, the loans to help people get back on their feet, and so many more. It’s a heartening American story that inspires you to stand up for what you believe in and help those in need. The speed at which the project came together shows how deep those Juneau roots of friendship are sown even to this day.
With warm regards,
Son of Mary Tanaka
Dear Empty Chair Committee, July 20, 2014
My name is Richard Tanaka. I am the second-born son of John and Jeanne Tanaka. I had the privilege of coming to Juneau for the Empty Chair dedication. I am so glad I got to meet most of you. Thank for making this all possible. I am so glad that my Mom (90 years old) and Uncle Kats (also 90 years old), and good family friend, Walter Fukuyama (89 years old) along with 30+ relatives made it up to Juneau. My father took my two brothers and myself to Juneau in 1972. Word got out that that my father came to town and crowds met him at the City Cafe, where Sam and Gim were owners. It was nice to eat at the restaurant my Grandfather began and where my father worked. At that time I remember meeting Vern Metcalf, Kenny and Bob Thibodeau- good friends of my Dad. To all of those wonderful memories I can now add of these memories. Our visit began with a welcome committee at the Juneau Airport and Marsha Bennett taking my family to the Mendenhall Glacier. Thank you! Next day visiting the Juneau-Douglas Museum- Jodie the curator did an outstanding display! The following day, viewing the Empty Chair documentary by Greg Chaney. So informative. I learned so much and the most moving part was to discover so many affidavits written on behalf of my Grandfather despite the growing anti-Japanese sentiment. They put their reputation on the line to support our family. That is love! Saturday, the Empty Chair Memorial Dedication. What a turn out! Karleen Grummett- the “Empty Chair Story” booklet was wonderful! It was so nice to meet so many of you. Sunday our relative went to Evergreen Cemetery and placed flowers on my Grandfather,Shonosuke’s grave site. Earlier that day I walked along the Gold Creek flume and came to that Cemetery and found not only my grandfather’s grave site but also found a grave site with this inscription. “To Our Beloved Baby, In Memory, F. Tanaka, Born-Died, June 20, 1925″ I never remembered my Dad ever mentioning that there was a still born directly after him. I met my Auntie Alice eating breakfast and asked her about this. She said that she had long since forgot, but now with this reminder she remembers visit the cemetery and placing flowers not only on her father’s grave site but also on a still born’s site. Another piece of the puzzle found. I truly believe God helped me to find not only my grandfather’s site but also my uncle/aunt’s site, as it was partially buried. I leave Juneau feeling more connected with my roots and more connected with the community that my father loved. It was evident 70+ years ago as demonstrated so well in how the Juneau community loved and supported all the Japanese before, during and after these difficult times and is still evident today. I teach my nine children that “integrity” is “doing what is right when no one else is looking.” I think I need to change that it is also: “doing what is right when everyone is looking”. As you did when you loved the Japanese when it was very unpopular. My deepest gratitude to all of you for your unfailing love you showed to my family. My only regret is that I was not able to bring my entire family to Juneau, but I did bring my wife, Lori and two of my daughters, Bethany and Kristi. I hope to once again return to your wonderful town. Thank you for making this such a memorable trip!
my website: http://www.teamtanaka.com
check out “Rich’s Updates”- pictures of our trip and learn about my Uncle Teddy who was lost in Juneau 1939 (under “letters”- 2007)
My story of the Empty Chair- (under “letters” -2013)
I would like to add my gratitude and appreciation to the wonderful Juneau community for extending such a welcome to all of us who returned for the Empty Chair Dedication. Our hearts were forever touched by the sight of so many that stood in the rain to share that wonderful day with us. We wished that we could have shook the hands of each one that made the Empty Chair so memorable. Thank you for such a very special homecoming that we will never forget.