Back during World War II, while our nation’s soldiers were fighting overseas, a California man found a way to serve here at home. His kindness carries on in lives of the families he’s helped.
For most Californians, this road doesn’t hold much of significance. But for Marielle Tsukamoto, her cousin Doris Taketa with husband Bill, see a much different scene.
“Over on this side, my dad had 15 acres. We had strawberries, boysenberries and blackberries,” said Tsukamoto.
What was once over 100 acres of farm land, split between three Japanese-American families in Florin, California, today now zoned industrial. It’s difficult for these families to swallow after what it took to keep the land.
“If it had been zoned a different way, we could have built our house here. This is what he would have wished. This is where he would have grew up,” said Tsukamoto.
In 1942, after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed an executive order to relocate Japanese Americans suspected of being spies. At just 5 and 12 years old, Marielle and Doris and their families were sent away to internment camps, leaving their farms behind with no one to tend to them.
“It had barbwire fences all the way around it and guard towers. We were not allowed to leave. We had no rights,” said Tsukamoto.
But help and hope came from an unlikely place.
“It was more than my Dad expected,” said Tsukamoto.
“I don’t know how he did it. It was amazing what he did,” said Doris Taketa.
Bob Fletcher, a State Agricultural Inspector at the time, quit his job to take care of the Nitta, Okamoto and Tsukamoto family farms in Florin. A man who raised cattle and managed a peach orchard, now tended to olive trees, tokay grapes and strawberries with his wife Teresa, working the land, paying the taxes, the mortgages, later splitting the profits with the families when they were allowed to return in 1945.
“He must have worked about 16 or 18 hours because he had to do the paperwork for three different farms for expenses,” said Taketa.
“It wasn’t only generous and kind but he was a special person who believed in humanity when others saw the enemy,” said Tsukamoto.
Land that’s no planted in warehouses, gates and barbwire, was once a farm with rich soil and deep history, thanks to a man bold enough to lead with his heart.
“He didn’t want any recognition. He just wanted to do the right thing,” said Tsukamoto. Saving not just the farms but the families and their future.