Holly Yasui with filmmakers Cory Shiozaki and Janice Tanaka at a screening of her documentary about Minoru Yasui, “Never Give Up,” at Faith United Methodist Church in Torrance last year. Shiozaki and Tanaka worked on the film. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

The Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition joins the Minoru Yasui Legacy Project and the Japanese American National Museum in honoring the life and legacy of the late Holly Yasui, the youngest daughter of Minoru and True Yasui.

To the very end of her extraordinary short life, Holly followed the advice of her father’s words: “We are born and placed on this earth to make this a better place for everyone.”

We share Holly’s story about her grandfather and grandmother, the first generation that came to America from Japan. Holly’s grandfather, Masuo Yasui, was among the thousands who had been unjustly arrested and imprisoned in Justice Department detention camps. Masuo Yasui was imprisoned for four years during WWII. The arrest was based on the assumption that “he was potentially dangerous to the public peace and safety of the United States.” 

Through this background of the family’s fight for justice, Holly remained steadfast and led the effort, along with coram nobis attorney for the Yasui family, Peggy Nagae, to honor Minoru Yasui with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was presented to the Yasui family by President Barack Obama in 2015.

“Another family story about my grandma, Shizuyo Yasui, impressed me deeply. In 1942, she was heading the household alone since my grandfather had been taken away in the first sweep by the FBI. My dad got arrested on a Friday night, and over the weekend there were photos of him on the front page of the newspaper with the blazing headline ‘JAP SPY ARRESTED.’

“On Monday, he (Minoru) phoned his mother in Hood River and apologized for causing her so much worry. She replied: ‘Shimpai dokoro ka, susumeru yo! Ganbatte!’ (I’m not worried. I support you! Persevere!)

“This, from a woman whose husband had been disappeared and, in his absence and without a word of English, she was managing the family farm and store in the face of great uncertainties and hostility. She didn’t scold or complain about her son’s arrest, but ‘encouraged’ him!”

Holly dedicated her life to fighting for justice and sharing her family’s stories. She will be greatly missed by all who had been touched by her love and kindness. We dedicate our lives by taking her spirit in persevering for justice for all. 

Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition 

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