Manzanar Committee Mourns the Passing of Rose Ochi

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Rose Ochi (center) was honored in 2012 with the Sue Kunitomi Embrey Legacy Award at the Manzanar Pilgrimage. She is joined by Kerry Cababa and Bruce Embrey of the Manzanar Committee. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

The Manzanar Committee mourns the passing of former Manzanar Committee member Takayo Rose Matsui Ochi on Dec. 13, just two days before she would have turned 82 years old.

Ochi, a native of East Los Angeles, was three years old when she, along with her parents and three siblings, were among over 120,000 West Coast Japanese/Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. The Matsui family was incarcerated at the temporary detention center at the Santa Anita race track in Arcadia before being shipped east to the American concentration camp at Rohwer, Ark.

After the war, Ochi returned to Los Angeles, and went on to become a teacher, an attorney, a civil rights activist, and a political insider at local, state, and federal levels. She worked on various causes, including the Japanese American community’s fight for redress and reparations, and with efforts to preserve and protect Manzanar.

Ochi worked with Sue Kunitomi Embrey, one of the founders of the Manzanar Committee, for many years.

“We had a quixotic journey together,” Ochi said during the 38th annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, on April 28, 2007. “I provided legislative advice and political support for Sue to realize her mission — the establishment of the Manzanar National Historic Site.”

“In so many ways, Rose Ochi and my mother were kindred spirits,” Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey said in April 2007. “Both overcame the sexism of their time to become teachers, civil rights advocates, and fierce proponents of redress and reparations.”

Bruce Embrey also noted Ochi’s role in the struggle to create the Manzanar National Historic Site.

“In later years, Rose played a key role in working with key elected officials in the Owens Valley to support the Manzanar National Historic Site,” he said following Ochi’s passing. “When Rose followed my mother as chair of the congressional Manzanar Advisory Commission, she helped navigate the federal bureaucracy as the site was being built, using many of her political connections to expedite things. After the opening of the Manzanar National Historic Site, Rose continued to work with both our committee and with the newly-created Friends of Manzanar.

“Rose will be deeply missed. On behalf of the Manzanar Committee, I’d like to extend our deepest sympathies and best wishes to her husband, Tom, and to all of her family, friends and former colleagues.”

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