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Reader finds family history in archival Times photo

June 12, 2012 |  1:51 pm

Terminalisland

Kary Kuwahara of Pasadena said she always thinks of her grandmother at this time of year, the anniversary of her death in 1985. So when Kuwahara opened the LATExtra section on Thursday, she made a poignant discovery.

An archival photo (above) showed two Japanese American women who worked at a cannery on Terminal Island. The woman on the left was Kuwahara's grandmother, Kin Takeuchi.

The photo accompanied an article by Bob Pool reporting that Terminal Island had been named one of America's most endangered historic places.

The original photo was taken Jan. 27, 1942, and published the following day in The Times.

Less than a month later, on Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the order for Japanese Americans on the West Coast to be incarcerated.

"My grandparents resided in T.I. and my grandfather worked as a fisherman, and my grandmother worked in the canneries," Kuwahara wrote in an email. "This was all prior to being interned at Manzanar when the Japanese Americans were relocated." 

Indeed, as Pool's article noted, nearly 3,000 residents of Terminal Island were among the first Japanese Americans to be uprooted and moved to World War II internment camps. The Manzanar War Relocation Center in the Owens Valley north of Lone Pine was one of 10 such camps around the country. Its first detainees arrived in March 1942.

Kuwahara had never seen the Times photo. "We have many old photos of my family's days in Manzanar, but very few from Terminal Island," she said.

"I had many calls throughout the day of June 7, from old family friends who either knew my grandmother or lived in Terminal Island at the same time, asking if the photo was my grandmother."

Kin Takeuchi died June 4, 1985.

"Every June 4 I have moments throughout the day just thinking of her," Kuwahara said. "To see her photograph on June 7 made me feel like she is still with me. Whoever selected that photograph never knew how meaningful both the article and picture would be."

-- Deirdre Edgar

Photo: A 1942 photo shows Kin Takeuchi, left, and an unidentified coworker on Terminal Island. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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