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JANM Mourns Passing of Ike Hatchimonji

JANM volunteer Ike Hatchimonji revisits a barrack from the Heart Mountain Concentration camp that he used to live right next door to during World War II.

The Japanese American National Museum mourns the passing of longtime museum volunteer Ike Hatchimonji, who died Jan. 17 at the age of 90.

During World War II, teenage Hatchimonji and his family — twin brother Mike, sister Gloria, father Kumezo, and mother Nobue — were forcibly removed to the assembly center in Pomona, then incarcerated in the American concentration camp near Heart Mountain, Wyo.

After the war, the family went to Arizona to restart the Valley Seed Company, which they had been forced to abandon there during their imprisonment. The company later moved to the Imperial Valley in California.

In 1953, Hatchimonji was drafted into the US Army. He was deployed to Korea shortly after the ceasefire in the Korean War was declared and was honorably discharged in 1955.

In the early 1960s, Hatchimonji started working for the Los Angeles County Public Health Department. He was working in the Watts community when the 1965 riots occurred. He then had a career in the U.S. Agency for International Development and worked in Nicaragua, Vietnam, and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), as well as Washington, D.C. He retired from the agency in 1988.

Hatchimonji volunteered at JANM for more than 28 years. He was a tour docent and active in volunteer fundraising campaigns. He served on the JANM President’s Volunteer Council from 1992 to 1999. His commitment to the museum earned him three of its volunteer awards.

In 1995, he received the Community Award, presented for outstanding service and achievement in working with visitors, the public, and in the community on behalf of the museum; in 1997, he received the Miki Tanimura Outstanding Volunteer Award, which honors volunteers who have made overall extraordinary contributions to the museum; and in 2009, Hatchimonji received, with his wife Ruth, the Museum Family Spirit Award.

In addition to his wife of 60 years, Hatchimonji is survived by daughter Susan Gates (Jim), son Jim (Rachel), and son Alan (Souzan), plus six grandchildren — including Kelly Gates, who works in the collections department at JANM — and one great-grandchild. He is also survived by his twin brother Mike (Grace); his sister Gloria predeceased him.

A Celebration of Life service will be held at JANM on Saturday, Feb. 24. Time to be determined.

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