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Japanese influence in Keizer area could be recognized by group

Of the Keizertimes

A project commemorating the Japanese influence in the Keizer area could be on tap.

Proponents had in mind a kiosk at Keizer Station Park similar to one opened for Marie Dorian earlier this year. The Keizer Points of Interest committee sought and got the support of the Parks and Recreation Board Tuesday night.

Bob Stai said the project would get assistance from the Fukuda family, who had a farm in the early 20th century in the Lake Labish area. There they raised onions and, as it turns out, a particularly compelling breed of celery.

“We take pride in our filberts and our cherries, but they were able to cultivate two different kinds of celery and have two crops in one season,” Stai said.

Family patriarch Roy Fukuda created the “Golden Plume” variety, according to the Oregon Historical Society Museum, that was “a trait considered very desirable at the time.” Stai said Sen. Charles McNary of Keizer took some to then-President Calvin Cooldige, who sent a thank-you note to the Fukuda family.

“It’s kind of exciting for us in that I’ve been living in Keizer and a resident of Oregon for many years, and I didn’t have an appreciation or even an understanding of the influence Japanese-Americans have brought to our community,” Stai said. “… It was not taught to us in school.”

World War II’s internment program shipped off much of the Japanese population as the U.S. government considered them to be a threat at the time. And Stai said many Japanese-Americans never came back.

“It’s something we feel is important (and) beneficial for our children to know,” Stai said.

He and fellow KPIC member Sherrie Gottfried sought the parks board’s help in large part because the committee doesn’t have a budget. He’s hoping a display could go up on the blank side of the Dorian kiosk – making the fledgling park at Keizer’s biggest shopping development one that “celebrates the diversity of our community.”

Parks board members agreed to lend support, but money wasn’t discussed. That board’s members also wanted to know more about Japanese influence in the eara.

“My mother grew up just north of here and was well aware of Japanese kids in the area,” said Parks Board Chair Jeanne Bond-Esser. “And then, they were all gone.”

Stai estimated the “high side” cost of such a project at about $3,000, less if volunteer labor steps up.