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City will honor Japanese pioneer


Of the Keizertimes

A project that languished for years has quickly moved forward.

Members of the Keizer Points of Interest Committee (KPIC) had talked about a project to honor the history of Japanese Americans in the Willamette Valley off and on in recent years. Late last year bids were secured for a sign to put up on the other side of the Marie Dorion kiosk at Pfc. Ryan J. Hill Memorial Park in Keizer Station.

Jill Bonney-Hill, KPIC chair, brought a request for the sign to the Keizer City Council on Jan. 20.

At Monday’s meeting, councilors approved the project and expenditures of $157.27 to have the sign printed by Sign Crafters. Parks Department employees will be placing the sign once it is ready.

“You may remember at your last meeting a KPIC representative spoke about this item,” city attorney Shannon Johnson told councilors.

A motion to approve the resolution was approved unanimously without comment.

As detailed in a Keizertimes story in November, much of the project revolves around Japanese farmer Roy Fukuda, who settled near Lake Labish northeast of Keizer in 1905. His hope was to make his fortune before returning home, but he and his wife decided to stay in the Keizer area.

Fukuda transformed the beaver marshes into profitable farmland, which led to more Japanese families coming to the area. At one point nearly 50 Japanese families were farming small plots around Lake Labish, expanding to farm in Keizer and Independence as well as owning businesses in Salem.

In 1920 The Statesman did a story on Fukuda and his successful celery growing business, an industry that had grown to $100,000 in output a year by that time.

Among other places, the quality of the crop was appreciated in Washington, D.C. In 1925, U.S. Senator Charles McNary – the namesake of McNary High School who served in the Senate from 1917 to 1944 and was a vice president nominee in 1940 – wrote a thank you letter to Fukuda.

In other business Monday:

• Mark Caillier, president of the Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association, gave the annual report for his group, which was formed in 1994 and was expanded in 2013 to encompass more than 2,500 households within the Gubser Elementary School attendance boundary.

Caillier gave a recap of what was discussed during the eight meetings last year and some of the projects completed by the association. He took over as president last fall from Brad Coy, who has stayed on as a board member. Ryan Steckly is the vice president.

Caillier noted GGNA uses funds from the city for flyers, yard signs and a newsletter.

“We continued our presence on Nextdoor and Facebook,” Caillier said of social media efforts. “We have almost 300 households using Nextdoor. We’ve been able to keep people up to date.”

One of the main projects for GGNA was the annual Miracle of Christmas, an effort during the Christmas season each year that collects food and cash donations to benefit the Marion Polk Food Share. A new record was set in one of those two categories this past year, with the second best ever in the other. Totals will be announced at the next GGNA meeting, taking place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19 at Gubser Elementary.

• Several recommendations from the Volunteer Coordinating Committee were approved by councilors. Former Mayor Lore Christopher – who refers to herself as Public Art Girl on her Facebook page – was appointed to the Keizer Arts Commission. Christopher previously was on that committee, but her term expired when she was no longer in public office.

Bev Ecklund was appointed to serve on KPIC while Scott Klug was appointed to the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.