OCHAZUKE: A Homily for Harry Honda

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“There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil.”

— Walter Lippmann

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By GWEN MURANAKA

Leave it to Harry, that old newshound, to challenge us one last time to hit our deadlines, even as we said a final farewell to him at St. Francis Xavier Church on Monday.

That’s what I thought when I heard the date of the funeral service for the late Pacific Citizen emeritus editor. It meant everybody here at the paper had to step up their game just a little more. Mario, so busy shooting Obons and the Nisei Week opening ceremony, had to prep photos early so the pages could be laid out.

George Yoshinaga had to give us his column a bit early so it could be typed up, and ready for print, and then prepare to give the personal history at the service.

From Naomi Hirahara to Martha Nakagawa, Wimpy Hiroto to Ellen Endo, Harry’s funeral was a reunion of news folks. There is a camaraderie that comes with the deadline, a relentless beast that must be slain everyday, only to arise again the next. The Rafu has such a long history that I often hear from the kids and grandkids of former workers who toiled at the paper over the decades. I guess that newspaper ink never truly leaves the veins. Of course that deadline never ceases in this era of online news.

Harry knew those deadlines better than anyone. He wrote more stories, columns and personal observances than probably anybody in the JA community, and he did it all in that humble, warm, inquisitive manner that was just part of his nature. Harry wasn’t a firebrand who would get worked up over a given cause. He was steadfast in the careful recording of the facts and minutiae that makes up this community and his generosity meant that he would share it with whoever would listen.

Father Richard Hoynes shares his memories of Harry Honda at the beginning of the funeral service held on Monday at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Little Tokyo. Several hundred people gathered to remember Honda, who served as a historian for the Japanese American community through his decades of work at The Pacific Citizen, The Rafu Shimpo and other publications. He passed away on July 3 at 93. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

You couldn’t help but like Harry and it’s what made him a perfect fit for JACL and the PC. Pacific Citizen is where I got my start in news and it was an invigorating and at times, bracing introduction to the JA community. Not having grown up in a Japanese American neighborhood, I naively assumed that because of that commonality, everybody would get along and be friends bound together by a shared ethnicity and a shared cause.

I soon learned that wasn’t the case. At PC, there is the challenge of serving two masters: the needs of the JACL as an organization and the requirement to print the news and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes those two needs will quite necessarily butt heads. I think it’s a challenge that faces anybody who has worked there and I wish Allison Haramoto and her staff the very best.

It was from Harry that I learned that you have to weather the criticism and attacks and just keep plugging along: do your job, meet your deadlines and most importantly, stay true to what you know is right. Harry would never talk about the difficulties he faced, and he faced many over the years — that was just his way. He just kept working, right to the very end.

At the conclusion of the funeral service, Jim Mayumi praised Harry as a “renaissance man.” And that was true. He took delight in finding a new fact, in meeting a new person, in introducing you to some new issue that he had just found out about.

His partner in crime through all of this was Micki, and as a couple they traveled the world for PANA conventions and attending JACL National Conventions. What an incredible love story. Thank you, Harry, for all you have done for this community and for reporters like myself. That’s “30” for now.

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The Obon season is in full swing this weekend with Nishi and Zenshuji temples hosting their annual festivals. Just down the road, the MISers will be enjoying their annual Steak Bake at Maryknoll on Sunday, where I’m sure Harry will be missed.

One of my favorite things to do at an Obon is to browse through the baked goods and fresh produce. We’ll usually pick up some fresh peaches or cucumbers, depending on what’s available. It’s also fun to see what looks good among the array of cookies, cupcakes and homemade manju.

For the ondo dancers, they will work off all those festival goodies. According to the Mayo Clinic, ballroom dancers burn between 200 and 300 calories per hour, depending upon their weight. So an ondo dancer will surely burn enough calories to indulge in that dango after enjoying a beef teri plate. Sadly, no such luck for sedentary onlookers, like myself. It’d probably be good to get some exercise after chowing down or maybe, just maybe, join in the dancing one of these days.

 Gwen Muranaka is the English Editor of The Rafu Shimpo and can be reached at [email protected] Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. takasumi a kojima on

    Another old time journalist has passed on; leaving only Whimpy and Horse to carry on. Those were the good old days, but what beautiful memories.. Time flies on so must the Pacific Citizen, and we will also. Sentimental songs that is good; it shows you care and understood the test of times. I did; good bye Harry and Godspeed with your journey.

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