Nisei Research

Today I looked back on an old correspondence email between Ken Grossi from Oberlin Archives and a Japanese Professor Toshiko Tsutsumi from Obirin Daigaku (J.F. Oberlin University in Machida, Tokyo) regarding the names of Nisei she had found while doing research here years ago. At the time, she had discovered 16 names of Nisei. In her list I found the name of one man I had missed: Willard Glenn Sueoka, 1941-4, class of ’45 who had been in both the conservatory and college.  He did not graduate from Oberlin.

It is quite possible that Willard may have actually been a “Sansei”, meaning “third generation” and so born to a Nisei; his father’s name was George, and his mother Toshiko was an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Hawaii.

According to an Oberlin College Records card, as of 1957 he was married to Helen Y. Yoshimori.

After searching on the web I found that he had gotten a Five-Year Diploma January 1949 from the University of Hawaii. By 1950 he was a chorus director at Maui High School.  His student file, which unfortunately does not include any personal writings, includes a nice Maui High Christmas chorus concert program entitled “The Nativity” along with a letter detailing excitement about the concert from “Oberlin ‘fan’ Mrs. Annie V. Crockett” to “J.C. Kennedy”, Assistant director of the Oberlin Alumni Association. June 1956 he was appointed to teach at Hutchinson School in NY, and it seems as though he eventually returned to his home in Honolulu. He passed away in 2005.

I hope somehow I will be able to determine if he has any descendants.

That makes 33 Nisei that I’ve found so far who were present in Oberlin during the WWII period.

Last Friday I looked through the student file of Soichi Fukui, who had graduated from the college and went on to work in his family Mortuary business (Fukui Mortuary). Soichi is a Sansei; his grandfather Soji started the business over 91 years ago after immigrating from Hiroshima (making him an Issei). Soichi’s father Hitoshi (Nisei) was born in *Honomu, Hawaii, and Soichi born in Los Angeles in 1921. (*Thank you to Jerry Fukui for your correction! May 2015)

His father Hitoshi is mentioned in the book “Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo”.

What is fascinating about Soichi’s student file is that it has plenty of his personal writings, including the Oberlin admissions application and essay that he had written from the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. Prior to Oberlin, he had attended the University of California at Berkeley in the College of Chemistry until he was evacuated in May 1942. He was involved in Boy Scouts (became an Eagle Scout) and was captain of the drum section of their drum and bugle corp, with whom he toured the US “after being invited by President Roosevelt for the Jamboree”. He also worked with the YMCA and other organizations and was active in his Community Christian church. He was also proud of his stamp collection, “estimating by myself to be at least $300”. This letter is particularly fascinating to me because one of my other jobs on campus is as an Admissions Intern.

Soichi Fukui, admissions essay

From 1944-1946 Soichi worked in the US Army as a translator in the Military Intelligence Section and was at one point stationed in the Philippines until ’46 when he was transferred to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Tokyo headquarters.

Also found more information on the illustrious Mrs. May (Mai) Haru Kitazawa Arbegast, as well as a Mr. Renso Enkoji via. interviews and pages about his wife Mabel Yoshiko Jingu Enkoji.

Filled in birth/death dates for Ray Masaato Egashira, though I haven’t quite found much about him yet.

A side note: Another fun part of Archives work is the moveable bookshelves of student records– they have wheels on the side that make you think you’re steering a ship! We have them in our Conservatory Library too, but still.