Hiroshi Uyehara, 98, internee, engineer

Hiroshi Uyehara
Hiroshi Uyehara
Posted: August 06, 2014

Hiroshi Uyehara was working for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in January 1942 when he and others of Japanese background were fired, in the month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

By May 1942, the American-born 26-year-old and his family were incarcerated at Santa Anita Park, a racetrack in Arcadia, Calif. It was a result of Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in February 1942, which eventually displaced 122,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from their West Coast homes.

By year's end, the Uyeharas were in a concentration camp at Rohwer, Ark., and were prisoners until January 1944.

On Tuesday, July 29, Mr. Uyehara, 98, of Medford, died at home.

Mr. Uyehara and his wife, Grayce, whom he had met at the Rohwer camp and married in September 1946, were founding members of the Philadelphia chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.

He had lived in Medford Leas, the retirement community, since 1988, and before that in West Chester since 1958.

Their son Paul, a civil rights lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, said his mother was executive director of the JACL legislative education committee whose lobbying resulted in the 1988 congressional resolution to pay reparations of $20,000 each to 60,000 survivors of the Japanese American camps.

"For a couple of years," Paul Uyehara said, "she was working in Washington. She would go down there three days a week. He would take care of things at the house while she was away.

"People would say he was quiet, especially compared to my mother."

But, he said, they would also "feel this sense of decency about him."

Teresa Maebori, a teacher of immigrants and refugees at the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia, was president in the 1980s of the JACL chapter the Uyeharas helped found.

At the annual folk fair run by the center in the former Civic Center, she said, "Hiro was the one who made sure that all the work was being done properly.

"He was meticulous and organized."

Mr. Uyehara was born in Oakland, Calif., and earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the Berkeley campus of the University of California in 1937.

From 1944 to 1983, Mr. Uyehara worked for the steam turbine systems division of Westinghouse Electric in Lester, Delaware County, mostly as a drafting manager. He retired as an engineer.

He was president in 1946 of the Nisei Council, a forerunner of the JACL, of which he was chapter president in 1959 and 1986.

Over the years, he was governor, secretary, and treasurer of its Eastern District Council.

Mr. Uyehara was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of West Chester, the West Chester Kiwanis Club, the Asian American Council, and the Asian American Elderly.

In addition to his son, Mr. Uyehara is survived by sons Christopher and Laurence; daughter Lisa Uyehara; a sister; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His wife died June 22.

A joint memorial for Mr. and Mrs. Uyehara has been set for 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, in the auditorium at Medford Leas.

Donations may be sent to the Japanese American Citizens League, 1765 Sutter St. San Francisco 94115, for the Uyehara Internship Program.


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