Manzanar Committee Statement On The Passing of Florin JACL Leader Bob Uyeyama

Bob Uyeyama
Photo: Gann Matsuda

LOS ANGELES — The Manzanar Committee extends its deepest sympathies to the family of Bob Uyeyama, 75, of Elk Grove, California, who passed away on April 24, 2010, while attending the Florin Japanese American Citizens League’s (JACL) trip to the 41st Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage.

Uyeyama, who was imprisoned at the Rohwer and Jerome concentration camps in Arkansas during World War II, was helping guide a walking tour prior to the start of the Pilgrimage. He was sharing his recollections of his time in camp at Block 14, located near the Interpretive Center at the Manzanar National Historic Site, when he suffered a heart attack and collapsed.


A doctor and a nurse who were in the tour group immediately moved to provide aid to Uyeyama. National Park Service emergency medical staff, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol and the Independence Fire Department also responded.

Uyeyama was transported to Southern Inyo Hospital in Lone Pine where efforts to resuscitate him continued, but were unsuccessful.

Uyeyama was an active member of the Florin JACL chapter and was part of the organizing committee for their annual trip to the Manzanar Pilgrimage. He often spoke to students about his experiences in camp as a docent for the California Museum of History.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Mr. Uyeyama and, on behalf of the Manzanar Committee, I want to offer our condolences to his family, friends and to the members of the Florin JACL,” said Bruce Embrey, Co-Chair of the Manzanar Committee. “This is a tremendous loss, both for those who knew him and for our community. Mr. Uyeyama was a man who was driven to share his life experiences with the next generation, to educate, enrich and engage, to teach with a purpose.”

Bob Uyeyama (left) telling his story
at the 2008 Manzanar At Dusk event.
Photo: Gann Matsuda

“He was telling his story, sharing his experiences of what it was like behind the barbed wire when he was stricken,” added Embrey. “For those of us who were involved in the struggle for redress and reparations, this drives home the fact that time is marching on. It is absolutely critical that we capture the stories of the remaining former internees.”

“Their sacrifices were not in vain. Even after almost seventy years, they continue to have a tremendous impact on our community and the nation.”

Uyeyama always seemed to be in his element at the Manzanar At Dusk event, which follows the afternoon Pilgrimage program each year. Uyeyama captivated young people with his stories and he enthusiastically answered question after question posed to him by students.

“Mr. Uyeyama was a strong, vibrant presence at the Manzanar At Dusk program the last few years,” said Gann Matsuda, co-coordinator of the Manzanar At Dusk event. “I have vivid memories of students who were glued to him, totally focused on his every word.”

“Mr. Uyeyama had a great desire to teach young people,” added Matsuda. “He clearly understood the importance of educating future generations about the camp experience. We will miss him dearly.”

Uyeyama is survived by his wife, Masako; son, Jason of Pasadena, California; sisters Ruth Maruoka of Ventura, California and Carol Tsuha of Pueblo, Colorado; brothers Jack of Sacramento, California, Bill of Rocklin, California, Stan of Oxnard, California, David of Bakersfield, Calfornia, Dan of Elk Grove and Pete of Oakdale, California.

Funeral services, originally scheduled for May 2, have been postponed and are pending.

The Rafu Shimpo also has a story on Uyeyama’s passing: His Story Was His Gift to the End.

Here are a few more photos of Bob Uyeyama telling his story and answering questions from participants at the Manzanar At Dusk program in recent years (photos by Gann Matsuda):

Bob Uyeyama (center) listens during small group discussions at the 2007 Manzanar At Dusk program, held at the Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center.

Bob Uyeyama (right) telling his story during small group discussions

Bob Uyeyama listening to questions from students

Bob Uyeyama (left) at the 2008 Manzanar At Dusk
program, held at Lone Pine High School.

Bob Uyeyama (right) during small group discussions at the
2009 Manzanar At Dusk event, held at Lone Pine High School.

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One Response to Manzanar Committee Statement On The Passing of Florin JACL Leader Bob Uyeyama

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