Fred Hoshiyama, YMCA and Japanese American community leader, dies at 100

Fred Hoshiyama, a longtime leader of the YMCA who became an active leader in many Japanese American community organizations, died Nov. 30, 2015 in Southern California, one week shy of turning 101 years old.

Hoshiyama, who was elected into the YMCA Hall of Fame as its 14th inductee in 1989 and received a kunsho or medal of honor from the Japanese government in 1997 — the Fifth Order of the Sacred Treasury with Gold and Silver Rays — was heralded for his role in helping a variety of community-based organizations.

“We have lost one of the real community service heroes on the API 20th century,” said Bill Watanabe, founder and longtime executive director of the Little Tokyo Service Center in Los Angeles, where Hoshiyama served as a board member for three decades until he retired from the board as he approached his 100th birthday. “After moving to Los Angeles in the late ‘60s, Fred assisted numerous nonprofits with his organizational expertise such as the Japanese American Community Services (JACS), Japanese American National Museum, the Venice JA Community Center and the Little Tokyo Service Center.”

“Fred was the sort of guy who deserved to live to be 100, precisely because he was much more of a ‘giver’ than a ‘taker,’” said Art Hansen, director emeritus of the Japanese American Oral History Program at California State University, Fullerton. “His mind was focused not on his past achievements, but upon what good he could do for his community. He was a genius at raising money for community undertakings.”

“Fred’s life exemplified a commitment to leadership development and community service,” said Little Tokyo Service Center Board of Governors Chair Alan Nishio. “In working with Fred for 30 years on the LTSC Board, I found him to be an attentive, engaged and contributing board member until his retirement from the board as he approached his 100th birthday. Fred’s enthusiasm, experience, and commitment to community will be missed.”

Born in the Yamato Colony
Fred Yaichio Hoshiyama was born Dec. 7, 1914, the first of six children to dirt farmer Yajuro and his wife Tani Fusa (Takato) Hoshiyama at the Yamato Colony in Livingston, Calif., a Central Valley settlement founded by Nichi Bei Shimbun publisher Kyutaro Abiko. By 1922, his father and two siblings had passed away, and his mother raised the remaining children through extreme poverty a starvation on the farm for seven years, reads a biography of Hoshiyama.

In December of 1929, when he was 15, family friends helped to move them to San Francisco.

In an interview with the Nichi Bei Times in 2007, Hoshiyama said his family lost their farm, as they could not make mortgage payments after their father died. “I moved to San Francisco, thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Abiko, who took care of us,” said Hoshiyama. Hoshiyama would live in the Abiko home for a year.

He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1941, and in 1945 he would earn his master’s in education from Springfield College in Massachusetts. He also did graduate work at George Williams College in Downers Grove, Ill. and Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn.

Hoshiyama married Irene Sumiye Matsumoto on Sept. 18, 1948.

For 39 years from 1941 through 1980 — save for his incarceration at the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, Calif. and Topaz (Central Utah) concentration camp during World War II — he worked fulltime for the YMCA, experiencing various roles including as a janitor and local, regional and national staff positions in six states.

“After the war, Fred came back to the YMCA that he participated in as a young man to run the operations along with his associate, Harry Payne,” said Rodney Chin, current executive director of the Buchanan YMCA in San Francisco’s Japantown, in a statement. “Together, they developed programs that served the need of the community made up of Japanese that were returning from the internment camps as well as African Americans that moved in when the Japanese left during the war. Fred later served as the executive director at both the Richmond District YMCA and the Stonestown YMCA before running programs in Los Angeles in the ‘60s.”

In 1960, Hoshiyama established a Home to Home Youth Exchange Program to Japan from San Francisco to sister city Osaka.
Hoshiyama was the founder and national director of YMCA’s National Youth Program Using Mini-Bikes in 1970, and also helped to establish the National Association of Student

YMCAs in the 1970s, revitalizing the YMCA student movement.

In 2006, he was honored with the Fred Y. Hoshiyama Asian Leadership Network Scholarship Fund to recruit, train and assist upward career mobility for all Asian YMCA professionals throughout the nation

“When he retired, he continued to work with the YMCA of the USA in providing his expertise and knowledge at national YMCA trainings where he met and influenced most of the country’s new directors in the YMCA movement,” added Chin.

Hoshiyama was preceded in death by wife Irene in 2012. A resident of Culver City, Calif., Hoshiyama is survived by a daughter, Bella Donna Sweet, and son, Matthew Roy

Hoshiyama, among other relatives.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, 11 a.m., at the Centenary United Methodist Church, 300 S. Central Ave. in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.

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