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At age 90, he’s the aftermost actual of the three Seike brothers.
Every Thursday morning, Hal Seike and his wife, Fran, 87, accomplish the 1-mile drive from their home to the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden. It ability assume abnormal to accept a botanical garden below a connected beck of jet takeoffs and landings, but there it is.
At their age, they’re still about nimble, able to drive and able to absorb three or so hours already a anniversary affairs weeds and raking leaves. They’ve been affiliated 61 years.
Each time they visit, they airing accomplished a ample lath lath appearance the “Seike Japanese Garden,” which occupies maybe an acre of the botanical site.
Prominent on that lath is a black-and-white photo of a adolescent Army soldier. That’s Toll Seike, the average of the three brothers. They were all Nisei, acceptation U.S.-born accouchement of Japanese immigrants. The garden is a accolade to him.
Toll was 21 back he was dead Oct. 29, 1944, in a alarming action abreast Bruyères, France.
In history books it is accepted as the “Rescue of the Absent Battalion.” While best Americans acceptable accept never heard of it, a Department of Defense commodity calls it “one of the abundant arena battles of World War II.”
Says Hal about the garden: “We go there rain or shine, decrepit to the bone. I’ve been out there in the snow. I’m absolutely affectionate of affected about it. That’s my ancestors name on it.”
A garden has to be tended, abnormally a Japanese garden, an alluring conception of distinctively placed rocks, a pond with a bridge, Japanese maples, sculptured atramentous pines and a array of shrubbery.
Upkeep of the absolute botanical garden, endemic by a nonprofit foundation, is done by volunteers, and they’re scarce.
Toll Seike was a clandestine in the 442nd Infantry Regimental Action Team, composed about absolutely of Japanese Americans, that during the war totaled 18,000 men.
Its adage was “Go For Broke,” acquired from charlatan argot acclimated in Hawaiifor back a amateur was risking it all in one accomplishment to win big.
The 442nd aggregate an amazing action almanac for courage — amid its abounding recognitions were 21 Medals of Honor, the country’s accomplished aggressive award, and 9,486 Purple Hearts.
In the Absent Battalion rescue, the regiment absent 400 men angry to accomplishment some 230 besieged associates of the Texas National Guard trapped by the Germans.
The action was “in close woods, abundant fog and freezing temperatures,” says the Department of Defense article.
The rescuers suffered accumulation casualties, it says, commendation Army historians. “Then, commodity happened in the 442nd. By ones and twos, about spontaneously and afterwards orders, the men got to their anxiety and, with a affectionate of accepted anger, confused against the adversary position. Bitter hand-to-hand action ensued as the Americans fought from one adherent position to the next. Finally, the adversary bankrupt in disorder.”
Hal remembers a letter that Toll accelerate from the battlefield.
“He was absolutely afraid and frightened, wet and cold. The German arms was cutting over his company, and the copse would aloof shatter, and beat and crash,” says Hal.
Toll was an American kid. He got his abnormal aboriginal name because a agent who was autograph bottomward his name didn’t accept the ancient Seike’s burst English. He was saying, “Toru.”
Toll shows up in The Seattle Times athenaeum a brace of times.
In 1932, back he’d accept been about 11, he is listed as actuality amid “ambitious boys and girls (who) accumulate at Times Annex to body structures of Old English design.”
It’s not bright why the cardboard answer architecture a miniature village, but it admiring a lot of participants. These days, that’s alleged “reader engagement.”
In 1941, at about age 18, Toll was amid the leaders in the Guest Guesser challenge for admiration academy football outcomes. Back then, the cardboard ran a abundant account of the best guessers so they could blow and save it in their scrapbooks.
Starting the abutting year, added than 110,000 Americans of Japanese coast on the West Coast would end up in bondage camps.
Most of the Seike ancestors were amid those alien abroad — the parents, forth with Hal and his two sisters, Ruth and Shizu, who were all still in academy in Highline.
In 1942 the ancestors had six weeks to get accessible for the affected relocation. Hal remembers the ancestors captivation a barn auction to get rid of domiciliary goods.
“It was a Sunday, Mother’s Day, back I bethink the big Army trucks came and best us up. It was affectionate of a sad day,” Hal says.
Toll and Ben, the oldest of the brothers, were belief at Washington Accompaniment University in Pullman, which was advised too abandoned and so wasn’t in the “exclusion zone” for Japanese Americans.
Toll volunteered for the 442nd.
Ben additionally would admit in the Army and end up as an analyst in the Philippines with the Aggressive Intelligence Service. The Seike kids had alone a abecedarian ability of Japanese, so the Army beatific Ben to Japanese accent school. He died in 2014 at age 93.
By the time Hal accomplished an age to be drafted, the Korean War was on. He concluded up accomplishing amount in the Army.
By again the Seike ancestors had spent added than three years affective amid camps in California, until assuredly the ancient Seike was able to assignment in Chicago at a school-supply company, a abode accounted far abundant abroad from the West Coast.
Hal doesn’t allocution abundant about those years.
“It’s commodity of a abscessed point,” he says in his chaste way. He adds, “We were like prisoners.”
Shinichi Seike, the father, who died in 1983 at age 95, had appear to the U.S. back he was 31. It was the quintessential immigrant story.
He endemic a abundance on Maynard Street in the Chinatown International District, bringing in appurtenances from Japan. He’d accomplish approved treks in a aliment barter loaded with rice, soy booze and added Asian appurtenances to Japanese agriculturalist camps in Eastern Washington.
By age 41, Seike had bought 13 acreage in what’s now the burghal of SeaTac. He had a abode built.
“We had chickens, one cow for milk, a lot of bake-apple copse and vegetables,” says Hal.
The ancient Seike’s plan was for Hal and Ben to alpha a bulb nursery on the acreage, and so they would abstraction agronomics at WSU.
The ancestor additionally fabricated abiding he wouldn’t lose his property, as happened with added interned Japanese Americans. In the six weeks afore actuality alien away, says Hal, “My dad had an advocate booty affliction of the acknowledged matters. He was a acute man.”
The ancestors home would be busy out and that assets would pay the mortgage on the abode and the acreage taxes. A German-American brace busy the home and took acceptable affliction of it — “perhaps there were sympathetic” because they additionally had accomplished the alert stares, says Hal.
In 1953, eight years afterwards the ancestors alternate from actuality relocated, Des Moines Way Nursery opened.
It was run by the two actual brothers.
But the dad had capital commodity abroad on that property. In 1961, he brought in a artist from the old country and had a Japanese garden constructed.
It would be a advertise for the nursery, a advertise for all of the Seike ancestors accomplishments.
And it would account the son who had been dead in that alarming battle.
The Des Moines Way Nursery lasted for bisected a century, closing in 2002. The acreage was bought by the Port of Seattle for its third-runway expansion.
The ancestors home was leveled, but there was commodity on those 13 acreage that was actual important to the Seike family.
It was the Japanese garden the dad had constructed.
A photo in the Wing Luke Museum athenaeum shows the dad actuality accustomed the U.S. banderole at Toll’s aggressive account at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery by Evergreen Washelli. His obituary addendum that the dad had been a admiral of the Gold Star Parents Association, for those who absent a ancestors affiliate in the service.
Says Fran Seike about her father-in-law, “He was actual affecting back it came to accident Toll. He admired to go to the garden and contemplate.”
It took some doing, but in 2006 a acceptable allocation of the Seike Japanese Garden concluded up actuality actually aerial and confused to its accepted location.
The accompaniment Legislature came up with a $246,000 grant. Another $50,000 came from the burghal of SeaTac.
“Some of those rocks are a brace of tons,” says Kit Ledbetter, SeaTac’s now-retired parks director. “It was important how the rocks were laid out.”
Now, on Thursday mornings, if you appear to appointment the garden and you see the aged brace tidying it up, you apperceive why.
Seventy-three years ago, claret was agitated so a garden like that could exist.
Correction: Information in this article, originally appear Nov. 11, 2017, was adapted Nov. 11, 2017, 20. A antecedent adaptation of this adventure afield declared that Washington Accompaniment University was advised in the “exclusion zone,” breadth Japanese Americans could stay. That breadth was not in the “exclusion zone.”
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