• 1212 South King Street, Seattle, WA 98144
  • (206) 322-1122
  • info@nvcfoundation.org

In my last column as President, although I have mentioned them before, I wish to thank the editors, staff, and crew who work quickly, smartly, and diligently to make this monthly newsletter possible.

I want to add that I have truly learned a lot from Commander Michael Yaguchi and Past President Gerri Lynne Egeler. And I welcome Dale Watanabe as the new NVC Commander. He brings an impressive and huge wealth of experience and interpersonal connections.

A sincere congratulations to Jay Deguchi for being our new NVC Foundation President. He is the right person for the job.  Jay and his family have a long and storied history here in the Northwest.

Jay’s Aunt was married to fabled World War Two Hero Private First Class (PFC) William K. Nakamura.  PFC Nakamura exhibited extraordinary heroism and sacrifice protecting his platoon in battle, perishing on the 4th of July 1944, near Castellina, Italy.  He received posthumously our nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor.

Jay’s grandfather, Yoshito Fujii was elected Chairperson of the Community Council at Minidoka during the Incarceration. This position required unusual leadership under stressful conditions as there were very strong emotive currents of opposing opinions in camp.  After the war, Yoshito was a very respected business and social leader in Seattle with strong ties to the Betsuin Buddhist Temple. He was a driving force to create the Nisei War Memorial Monument at Lake View Cemetery and Wysteria Plaza Park across from the Betsuin Buddhist Temple.  Yoshito was decorated twice by the Japanese government for his community work.  More information about Yoshito and his family can be found in Minidoka Memoirs, (Ken Mochizuki, Third Place Books, 2017) which was produced in collaboration with Yoshito’s three daughters, Irene, Jean, and Beth.

As an architect and a partner in the firm, Suyama Peterson Deguchi, Jay designed the Foundation’s Memorial Brick Wall, and he also blueprinted the major renovation at the NVC Memorial Hall in 2005.  In addition, he is the designer for the proposed new Bush Gardens karaoke space, a project which is in the pipeline. He has also chaired the Nikkei Concerns fundraising golf tournaments and more recently the Thanksgiving Eve & Pool Tournaments at Terry’s Kitchen.

Jay fondly remembers playing basketball as a teen at the NVC Hall. And having his own bachelor party there. He says” I remember the Christmas parties, rib eye steak dinners, smell of the gym and the piano upstairs.  It was really a great clubhouse, it felt like home.”

So indeed, Jay Deguchi and his family’s roots in the community go way back.  In fact, the name Deguchi reminds me of the time I was being shown around Minidoka for the first time some years ago. There, at the prominent Honor Roll display, I was surprised and intrigued to see the name Deguchi on the honor roll.   I asked with perhaps too much enthusiasm to the person showing me around, “Deguchi! It says here Deguchi. Deguchi!  That’s like Italian, isn’t it? What’s all that about?”    She turned around without saying anything and started walking away, maybe wanting to roll her eyes. 

When I mentioned this story recently to Jay, he smiled and said he can remember showing up at an Italian restaurant and saying to the Host, “I have a reservation, last name is Deguchi.”  He says, “The host looked puzzled and confused.”  He goes on saying, his friends have teased him as being their Italian Japanese friend.

The Deguchi name I saw on the Minidoka Honor Roll was Jay’s uncle, Seiichi Deguchi. Seiichi, “a great guy”, served in MIS.  Having graduated from Ft. Snelling as a military linguist, he worked in Tokyo, in the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section.

For Jay’s first meeting as President, he plans to invite the NVCF board members’ children to the board meeting in this month of March “to have a good listen to their interests and thoughts.”   That seems consistent with his philosophy in his architectural firm – and that is to give “a lot of credence in a client’s state of mind when they reach the front door.”  And to create a transition in a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere.