Mary Urashima, who worked to preserve historic JA settlement, dies

Mary Urashima, who fought to preserve a historic Japanese American settlement in Huntington Beach, Calif., passed away Nov. 20 after a battle with cancer, the LAist reported.

Over the last decade, Urashima “built a coalition of supporters from southern California and beyond, who recognized the importance of saving the Wintersburg farm, where three generations of Japanese Americans lived and worked starting in the early 1900s,” the article stated.

Urashima “successfully lobbied to have Wintersburg recognized as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places,” the publication stated. She persuaded city officials to “envision the site…into a public space for education and recreation.”

Due to a fire tearing through several Wintersburg site structures this past February, the site began gaining more public support.

Colleagues and friends described Urashima as “a humanist who fought for civil rights and justice.”

“We will work together with the community to preserve Historic Wintersburg in Mary’s memory,” Kyoko Nancy Oda, Urashima’s friend, wrote in an e-mail to the Nichi Bei Weekly. “She has been an inspiration and will continue to be one that will guide us.”

Urashima, who was white, married into a Japanese American family, and “became an expert in a history that saw the Furuta family forced to leave their homestead at Wintersburg” during the World War II incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry, the article stated.

Jamie Hiber, the executive director of the Heritage Museum of Orange County, wrote to the Nichi Bei Weekly in an e-mail, that Urashima’s “efforts to acknowledge the significance of Japanese American heritage in Orange County through her published works and activism brought a lot of needed awareness and education to the public.”

Hiber added that Urashima’s leadership over the past decade “brought together a dedicated group of partnered community leaders to carry on her work to be sure we are able to save the sacred property.”

“We are heavily grieving our friend, but she left us with hearts full of inspiration and motivation to make a positive impact in this world, just as she did,” Hiber wrote.

 

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