Haruko (Abe) Yamada
Heart Mountain

Brick #884   Wall Location  Column: 60   Row: 38

Haruko's grandparents were Hirokichi and Tsune Abe. The family property is located in Okayama-ken, Kurashiki-shi, Chayamushi, Japan. Hirokichi and Tsune's son, Araichi Abe, was Haruko's father. Araichi and Haruko's mother, Kimiyo Yasunaka, were married in Japan. They had a son and daughter who died during childhood. Araichi and Kimiyo later immigrated to Los Angeles, CA where Haruko, Kenzo, Niro and Kiyoko were born. Kenzo passed away during youth.
Haruko was born on March 9, 1917. Haruko means 'child of spring' and each year on approximately March 9th, the cherry blossoms open and spring flowers begin to bloom. The kanji for Abe is also the kanji for wisteria. Wisteria vines have beautiful cascading florets of purple or purple and white. These delicate flowers are representative of Japan and are often used in decorative hair ornaments.
The Abes lived in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles. One day when Haruko was about 12 years old, she returned from school to discover her mother's body on the kitchen floor. Kimiyo Abe's death resulted from a brain aneurysm. Subsequently, Haruko. Niro who was approximately 8 years old and Kiyoko who was the youngest became orphans. We do not know what became of their father, Araichi Abe.
Kiyoko was returned to Japan where she lived with relatives and earned her way as a maid. Haruko and Niro chose to remain in Los Angeles. They were cast off and roomed in garages of various relatives. They were part of the generation known as Nisei or the second generation of Japanese to live in America. The Japan that Haruko carried in her heart sprang from the traditions and culture that her parents experienced in Japan during the years prior to Haruko's birth.
Haruko and Niro graduated from high school in Los Angeles. Haruko did well in school and possessed artistic talents. She did biological and science drawings. She thrived in fashion art. She supported herself and Niro by being a maid, teaching piano lessons, working for a dry cleaner and being a seamstress creating dress patterns for the clothing she made.
After Pearl Harbor, startng in January 1942, the US government transported Japanese Americans to internment camps away from the west coast. Haruko and Niro were moved to Heart Mtn. Relocation Camp in Wyoming. As orphans, they did not have many possessions but they were forced to abandon what they did own.
After release from Heart Mountain, Haruko moved to Denver, CO. Colorado's Governor Carr was one of the few who openly welcomed Japanese Americans. It was in a dry cleanning store where she was employed that Haruko met her future husband, George Yozo Yamada. Haruko was bilingual in English and Japanese. When George returned to the US as a young man in 1937, he had difficulty with the English language. Consequently, Haruko taught George to read, write and speak English.
Haruko and George were married on August 25, 1943. Over time, they had 4 daughters and 1 son. In raising their children, they emphasized the traditional culture of Japan. The children received instruction in the Japanese language, flower arranging, brush painting, tea ceremony and classical dance. The family participated at the Denver Buddhist Temple where one daughter taught Sunday School classes and participated in flower and candle dance ceremonies at the church.
Haruko spent her time as a mother, wife and homemaker. She used her skills as a seamstress to sew clothing for the children. She enjoyed knitting sweaters. She crocheted blankets, bedspreads and doilies. She used cloth from clothing that had been outgrown to fashion quilts and comforters. She made throw rugs from heavy yarn. As the children grew older and college tuitions were needed, Haruko worked as a part-time waitress at the Chinese restaurant. She sewed the Chinese style uniforms that she and George wore to work.
The family dined on a variety of Japanese, Chinese and American meals. Haruko learned the recipes from her mother's cooking, the Chinese restaurant and the homes where she had served as a maid. One celebratory meal was the January 1st New Year's feast. Haruko began preparing the special selection of customary dishes days in advance. Some of the dishes had symbolic importance and were considered mandatory eating on the first day of January.
Haruko was kind and empathic but she and George were firm and focused parents. They emphasized their children's educations. The children benefitted from piano lessons but were directed toward math and science as being more practical and useful than art and music. All 5 children graduated from college and make their livings in their chosen professions. George and Haruko have 6 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
Before her death on March 22, 1994, Haruko was responsible for the family property in Okayama, Japan. Although the property rightfully belonged to Haruko's brother, Niro, he had given it to her in gratitude for raising him when they were orphans. Haruko willed the property to her niece.

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