Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Miyatake Interview VI
Narrator: Henry Miyatake
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 28, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mhenry-06-0010

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TI: So Henry, let's go back and talk about the Day of Remembrance, because I'm going back again to Frank Chin. Frank came across an opportunity relating to ABC and their 20/20 program. Can you talk about that?

HM: Well, let's see. It was a 60 Minutes program.

TI: Was it 60 Minutes or 20/20?

HM: No. 60 Minutes.

TI: Because CBS is 60 Minutes.

HM: Yeah. It was CBS 'cause...

TI: Okay.

HM: ...the person that was doing the production was affiliated with 60 Minutes. Well, there's a couple of things that were going on in the 1978 time period. One was the fact that I had not paid too much attention to the redress issue. For one thing, 1977, I was spending a lot of time building my ex-wife's beauty salon, full-service salon. And I had taken a leave of absence from work from Boeing. And then I used my accumulated vacation time, and I became the general contractor for this project. And so I was spending a lot of time doing that kind of function. And the redress thing would kind of, started to go downhill because I felt that our affiliation with John Tateishi was getting kind of distangled or, to a point where he would send communication to me through JACL chapter with the wrong address. And it would get to me after the meeting date had already occurred, things of this nature. And I got to a point, thinking, "Well, those guys, they're giving me the message." They're telling me they don't need me. So I became kind of disenchanted with the whole process. And in...

TI: Well, in addition, too, there were personal tragedies, too. In the, you mentioned being a general contractor for your wife's salon in the summer of '77. But at the end of '77, your son was killed...

HM: Yeah.

TI: ...or died in an accident.

HM: So anyway, that was a very perturbing point for me. I think losing a child is more difficult than losing parents or anything else. And then...

TI: Can you just tell us briefly how he died?

HM: Well, he was an athlete for gymnastics at the Newport High School. And they used to be in a conditioning program. And every morning and then the afternoon after school they'd make these five-mile runs. And it was a physical fitness-type program to keep all the athletes in good condition. And gymnastics is a pretty tough physical exercise requirement. And the football coach liked the way that he used to kick the football because he used to have tremendous leg control. And he, when he used to kick the ball his feet would come almost up to his face, and he had tremendous flexibility. The only thing he didn't like about football was it was a contact sport. [Laughs] And the people are -- since he was asked to be a punter, he used to punt pretty good. He didn't like the idea of people coming after him. Anyway, they used to get checks every so often -- so, and physical checkups. And they used to take blood samples, and seeing what blood levels they were at, and if they had any problems. Well, I had a message from the nurse at the high school saying that, that our son's blood level was somewhat out of the norm. So anyway, this one day, Robert goes down to the Overlake Hospital. And they check him out, and they said, "Well, they're gonna hold him over." And he gets an intravenous. Well, my ex-wife was informed about this procedure that was taking place. And I had no knowledge of it because I was working up in Everett, and I was on transit coming home that time. And so they kept him overnight. I was kind of worried about him because I didn't know that he had this kind of problem or whether or not he did have it. So I stayed overnight at the hospital with him. And in the course of the evening, he goes into a state of shock. And by morning, the attending physician comes around and he says, "Hey, we're going to have to put him into ICU." I says, "What for?" "Well, he's in a state of shock. We don't know what's going on." And so he ends up in the intensive care unit. Well, he's there for two days, and he comes out of there, and he says he's feeling pretty good. But I don't know what the heck happened to him. Well, they gave him the wrong intravenous. And this is what we found out later on. But nonetheless it... so about the fourth day, I'm walking him through the hallway, and he says, "I want to go home tomorrow." And so they give him some more medication. And I wasn't aware of the fact that they were giving him the medication. But the following night he goes into another state of shock, and they bring him up to the intensive care unit. Finally, well, this, he went into the hospital on the 28th, and then on the 9th of December he expired. And, and, on February 19th, which is a kind of an interesting date for me, but I went up to the hospital to try to get the records of his passing, and well, he died of liver damage. They gave him the wrong medication or something, and caused him some very difficult liver situations for him. Anyway, that's what he died of.

But on February 19th, when I went up to the hospital, they said they can't give me the records because they're still working on it. And this is two months after the fact. And I thought this was kind of strange. Why should they be working on the records two months after his passing? Well, it took 'em about two more weeks to get that record of all the events that took place. And I called up one of the nurses that I got to know during this sequence of events, and I asked her, "What happened on this, the records for Robert?" And she says, "Well, we were asked to make some changes on it." So that's what they did. They said that the writing was unclear. So they were asked to make changes. And so anyway, we don't know what the sequence was during that whole process because we don't know how many records were manipulated by them, anyway. He was in extremely good physical condition. He was a superb athlete. He was a good student. But anyway, that, that was a real shock to me. It took me probably about a year to get over that situation. But...

TI: You also mentioned that, that subsequent to Robert's death, you and your wife started having, or started having divorce proceedings.

HM: Well, yeah. The death of our son kind of put a strain on the marriage. And anyway, my ex-wife filed divorce proceedings and, let's see, latter part of February of 1978, which is couple months from the time of Robert's passing. And that was bad enough. [Laughs] These two events were really bad enough. But then subsequently, my oldest daughter gets in a jeep riding accident, and she ends up in the ICU for twelve days. And I didn't know what -- I was spending all this time trying to resolve some of these issues, and it was a difficult time for me.

So the whole redress thing was being put into a lower priority for my own survival situation. And I think Frank Chin realized that some of these things were going on and we're losing our focus on redress. And one of the things that he felt was imperative was that the community be brought together for getting renewed interest in the redress process and about the whole subject, about Japanese American history. And so he felt the best thing to do was to hold a Day of Remembrance.

TI: And during this really difficult time for you, how did the others that you worked closely with, you know Shosuke, Ken Nakano, and others like Frank Chin, how did they work with you? Did they pretty much leave you alone or did they keep you informed or what...?

HM: Well, in Frank's case he thought distraction would be better for me. Maybe it was, in lot of sense, because it took me away from my emotional and psychological type situations. And at least I had to face reality in today's world and try to get something done. So Frank was doing it in a very comfortable way. He was never forceful or anything like this. But he felt for the good of the community that we should do this. Well, this thing about the election process. And I was trying to get Cunningham to change his ways and all this kind of stuff. It was little bit different, but it detracted me from my emotional, psychological quagmire that I was in.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.