OBITUARY: Arnold Maeda, 94; Leader of Venice JA Memorial Effort

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Brian Tadashi Maeda, Mae Kageyama Kakehashi, Arnold Tadao Maeda, and the late Amy Takahashi Ioki at the April 27, 2017 dedication of the VJAMM.

The Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument Committee mourns the loss of charter member Arnold Maeda, who passed away on Sept. 10.

“One day shy of ten years ago, Arnold gave an informed and impassioned presentation at the first VJAMM community meeting, held at the Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple on Sept. 11, 2010, in favor of permanently memorializing the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln boulevards,” the committee said. “The memorial would honor the 1,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu who assembled on the sidewalk in April 1942 with only what they could carry. This included 15-year-old Arnold and his parents, Norman Toyoshige Maeda and Sasami Takeda Maeda.

“Arnold’s quote on the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument reads, ‘Instead of being worried about where we were going, I was obsessed with the fact that I had parted with my constant companion, my pet dog, Boy. For a 15-year old, that was unforgettably traumatic.’

“Arnold and his family were forcibly removed from Santa Monica by Executive Order 9066, which followed the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1942. The Maedas left behind their home and their gardening and nursery business. Dogs were not permitted at the American concentration camp at Manzanar.

“The VJAMM Committee extends sympathy and condolences to Arnold’s family, including Arnold’s brother, Brian Maeda, also a VJAMM Committee charter member, who was born in Manzanar.”

On July 17 this year, the VJAMM Committee sent Arnold Maeda greetings on the occasion of his 94th birthday, which read, in part: “We are so happy to have met you, and so grateful for your moral support and outspokenness. You truly inspired us all, and congratulations! We did it! We dedicated the VJAMM on April 27, 2017, and we couldn’t have done it without you!”

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin of District 11, which includes Venice, said in a Facebook post, “Mar Vista mourns the loss of Manzanar internee and long-time Westside resident Arnold Maeda … Born July 17, 1926, in Santa Monica … Arnold grew up in the West L.A. area, where his parents ran a nursery business. During World War II, Arnold and his family were sent to the Manzanar concentration camp in California. After leaving camp, Arnold worked as a chick-sexer, a technical illustrator in the aerospace industry, and a life insurance salesman.

“He returned to California and became involved in community organizations including the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument Committee, where he helped create the monument that stands in Venice to memorialize the tragic chapter in American history … Arnold gave selflessly to his community and he will be dearly missed. Rest in peace.”

Norman Toyoshige Maeda, Sasami Takeda Maeda, Arnold Tadao Maeda, and Boy.

A proclamation presented by Bonin to Maeda for his 90th birthday included other details of his life: “Arnold Tadao Maeda … has provided inspiration and purpose to the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument Committee, representing the spirit which speaks to the best of our instincts; the willingness to have a clear understanding of our present, a deep and abiding respect for our past, a full recognition of the bonds which connect us all as one community and the determination to forge ahead into the future …

“Growing up in an era which produced severe issues of change and challenge; concerns of hope and fear; and questions of fact and uncertainty, [he]always demonstrated nothing but a positive sense of self-awareness; enhancing the lives of all he came to touch; sharing with them the precious gift of his infectious enthusiasm …

“Devoted husband to Kim Okanishi of Delano, Calif., whom he married on Aug. 2, 1953 in the West Los Angeles Methodist Church; dedicated father to his daughter, Susan Maeda Nakashima, and to his son, Richard Maeda; loving grandfather to Jason and Spencer Nakashima, [he]radiates a family culture of self-expression, self-determination, and self-reliance; all within a household which recognizes the necessity and value of promoting individual commitment to group efforts …

“President of the Class of 1944 and graduate of Manzanar High School while behind barbed wire of the American concentration camp in Inyo County, Calif., [he]demonstrated the principles which teach how hard work, sacrifice, loyalty, self-confidence, creative mind-play, a sense of humor, selflessness, and respect for others serve as an enduring source of personal fulfillment as well as an arc to bridge the gap between the wonderment of childhood and accountability of adult life …

“Arnold Maeda has enriched the lives of all hearts he has touched, through his work in the U.S. Army as an M-1 rifle instructor at Fort Lewis in Washington state; at the Military Language School at the Presidio in Monterey, Calif., where he honed his skills in Nihongo; as a chick-sexer for seven seasons with the American Chick Sexing Association in Lansdale, Pa.; as a technical illustrator with Litton Systems, an aerospace company in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he earned a Certificate in Engineering Math; as a life insurance agent with American General with the designation of chartered life underwriter; as a regular attendee of all of the ‘final reunions’ of Manzanar High School in Las Vegas; and of course, as an active charter member of and articulate speaker for the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument Committee …

“The Los Angeles City Council does hereby express sincere appreciation to Arnold Tadao Maeda for his unwavering commitment to the moral fiber, strength and character of the City of Angels, and, as we pause to celebrate him on his 90th birthday, pays tribute to Arnold for his role as a true treasure of the Venice community.”

Plans for a memorial tribute are pending.

For more information on the VJAMM, visit www.venicejamm.org.

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