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Lilly Kodama's Stories of Community Help During Hard Times

Picture of Setsuko Kitamoto an... Picture of Setsuko Kitamoto and Felix Narte
by John de Graaf for 1984 television (KCTS)
Lilly is now 90-yrs-old and lives in the family home again, on Bainbridge Island, where her grandfather created his 20-acres farm and was raising strawberries before WWII. Lilly says, "Felix Narte was his main farm hand. Grandpa and Grandma went back to Japan and left the farm to my father, Frank Kitamoto and my mother, Setsuko Nishinaka Kitamoto."  

Lilly further explains, “Felix used to baby-sit us and was part of our family. Because Felix took care of the farm and helped us so much, my father gave him an acre, when we got back home after our incarceration. He went back to the Philippines to marry and built his house next door. Now, Felix Jr. lives next door and is still part of our family. 

On March 30th 1942, we were the first group, with as little as 1/16 Japanese heritage, incarcerated when President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. I was 7-yrs-old, my sister Frances was 5-yrs-old, my brother Frank Jr was 2-yrs-old and Jane was a baby. We were taken directly to Manzanar in California. but later we were able to move to Minidoka in Idaho where our friends from Seattle were incarcerated. Felix drove all the way from Bainbridge Island to Camp Minidoka with our electric washing machine because he knew my mother needed it for washing diapers.”
Lilly also explained how her father was working for FRIEDLANDER JEWERY STORE in Seattle, “Mr Friedland was the one who called us to tell us the Government officials had taken our father straight to prison, without his even being able to come home, when WWII started. Later, Mr Friedlander got permission for my Dad to go to Chicago and learn watch repair. 

After the war. Mr Friedlander loaned my father money to start his own jewelry store business in the Bush Hotel on Jackson Street in Seattle. Also, the owner of the Bush Hotel paid for the big locked vault for storage of the valuables. Us kids once complained that we never went on vacations. My father explained, ‘As long as I owe Mr. Friedlander money, we can’t do such a thing until I pay him back.’”

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