February 19, 2022, marks 80 years since the signing of Executive Order 9066 that led to the wrongful incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. West Laurel Hill Cemetery is the final resting place for several of those of Japanese descent who were forcibly removed from their homes and interned in concentration camps based only on their ethnic heritage.
Susumu Kobayashi (1892-1975) was born in Hirata, Shimaneken, Japan and came to the United States when he was 22 to join Yamato, a Japanese agricultural community near Palm Beach, Florida. In 1922 he returned to Japan to marry Suye Matsumoto (1900-2001). The Kobayashis returned to America and moved to Geneva, Illinois where they worked as gardeners on the “Riverbank” estate of millionaire businessman George Fabyan. The family moved to San Leandro, California in 1939 and remained there until 1942 when, under Executive Order 9066, they were relocated to the Topaz, Utah internment camp for Japanese in America.
Susumu and Suye Kobabyashi are buried in the Cameo Gardens section of West Laurel Hill. Their daughter, Sumiko, worked to share the history and culture of Japanese Americans to the American public, donating her papers to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Mary Katsuno Kawata (1892-1980) came to the United States in 1911. Widowed in 1922, she worked as a laundress in a private home in California until she was sent to the Internment Camp in Gila River, Arizona, along with daughter Martha Nobuko (born in California in 1916) and daughter Mary Aiko Yagura (born in California in 1911). In 1930, Mary Aiko had married John Tomio Yagura (1898-1970). John was born in Japan and worked as a private violin teacher while Mary taught piano. They had a child (John, Jr.) who was five years old when the family was forced to leave their California home and move to Gila River. During their time in Arizona, the Yaguras lost one son while another was born. Mary, John and John Yagura, Jr. are all inurned in the Sanctuary of Peace.
For more information on the Japanese internments or the Day of Remembrance, check out the links below: