Helen Tsuchiya passed away at the age of 92 on February 4, 2017. As she shared with young people through Larry’s ‘Elders’ Wisdom, Children Song’ program about her Japanese-American Internment experience in World War II, “When you think about it, it’s my parents who really suffered. Now I want to share my story with the children so it will never happen again.” In return the children and Larry honored her in song. As the closing verse to Be Kind To All That Live reads:
If I were to change tomorrow
I would start here right now
To help put an end to sorrow
I know we each know how
Be kind to all that live
When I was thirteen years of age, my father passed away. Friends and neighbors helped my family through with food and letters of comfort. One of those letters of comfort came from my Little League coach, Mr. Mayeda.
Thirty years after my father’s death I came upon Mr. Mayeda’s letter. I was so touched by his words that I sought him out. Mr. Mayeda had moved to Oceanside, California. He was terminally ill. I thanked him for his letter of comfort and the many years of volunteering as our Little League coach.
Mr. Mayeda said to me, “Larry, my family was part of the 125,000 Japanese Americans placed into internment camps during World War II. I have one favor to ask. Could you please write a song about the Japanese-American internment camps?” I promised Mr. Mayeda I would. He passed away soon thereafter.
In his honor, I visited the Manzanar Internment camp in California and read books about the Japanese-American experience with hopes of inspiration.
Nothing came in the way of a song, until I met Mrs. Helen Tsuchiya through Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song. Mrs. Tsuchiya was the grandmother of a child in one of my classrooms, who shared her life experience as a Japanese-American internment survivor. After she spoke, I discovered that she was best friends with Mr. Mayeda and his family. Not only that, but her husband coached and played baseball with Mr. Mayeda!
“Be Kind to all that Live,” not only honors Mrs. Tsuchiya, but also is a fulfillment of the promise made to my Little League coach.
You can learn more about Helen Tsuchiya and read a transcript of her story at Community Celebration of Place.