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NVC Taps

October 2021, Volume 71, Issue 9


FRANK KEN NISHIMURA
April 9, 1924 - September 25, 2021

With the passing of Frank Ken Nishimura on September 25, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation, a WWII hero, and an outstanding community servant. Frank was born April 9, 1924, in Seattle to Ritoji and Kiku Nishimura. As immigrants Ritoji and Kiku were denied US citizenship, but Frank and his siblings received it since they were born on American soil.

In April 1942, the Nishimura family moved to Mead, Washington rather than undergo incarceration with other Japanese American families. In 1943, Frank enlisted in the Army's new all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team and went to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for training. Before finishing training, he volunteered to go to Italy as a replacement in the 100th Infantry Battalion, a Japanese American unit from Hawaii that had suffered heavy casualties at Monte Cassino. He landed with the 100th at Anzio, an invasion that the 442nd joined. After that, the 100th Battalion was attached to the 442d but was allowed to keep its designation as the 100th.

The Hawaiian men in the 100th tagged him with the nickname "Junior" ("Jun-Yah" in Pidgin) because of his youth. He was assigned to Company B as a radio man, carrying a radio almost as big as he was, and then became an unofficial interpreter when his captain learned of his German language classes at Broadway High School.

He fought with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Battalion at Anzio and in all their major campaigns from there, including their critical breakthrough of the Gothic Line. In the course of his service, he was partly deafened by a grenade explosion in Italy, and in the famous 442nd/100th campaign to free the Lost Battalion of Texans, he was wounded in the Vosges Mountains and evacuated to a hospital near London. He returned to fight in France and Italy until the war ended, when he volunteered to go to the war in the Pacific. The war with Japan ended before he could go, and he was discharged as a sergeant. For his service, he was awarded the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the French Legion of Honor, and the Congressional Gold Medal along with all 442nd/100th veterans.

Back from Europe, he went to work at the family's hotel - the Puget Sound Hotel on Dearborn Street - and completed welder training despite being told there would be no welding jobs open to him as a Japanese American. In 1947 he joined the US Postal Service and worked as a carrier for 27 years.

In 1948 he married Haru Kumasaka, a "veteran" of the Minidoka concentration camp. Together they raised their family of seven children. And he began a life of community service, highlighted by 30 years as Scoutmaster of Troop 53 during which he led the boys on many adventures: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Whitney, Bowron Lakes, Mt. Fuji, Philmont Scout Ranch, and others. For his scout service, he received all possible national honors, including the Wood Badge, Order of the Arrow, Silver Beaver, and National Spirit of Scouting Award. Probably his best reward was regular encounters with former scouts. At every such occasion the salutation "Hi Mr. Nish!" rang out, followed by another visit with an alumnus of Troop 53.

After retiring from the Postal Service, Frank enjoyed another career with the Seattle Water Department, making another set of friends. He and his equally adventurous wife Haru continued the travel adventures they had begun with the scouts, making trips to Japan, Europe, the Middle East, South America, and all over America. In 1994 in recognition of his many years of service to his community, he received the Seattle P-I Jefferson Award. He also was elected to the Broadway High School Alumni Association's Hall of Fame.

Frank leaves his children David, Jon, Dean, Joy, Russell, and Meri (Jim) Shields; brother Hiromi and sister Yuki Mizuta; grandchildren Kenji (Myra) Nishimura, Wendy (Robert) Sayamoungkhounm, Kelly (Cody) Ellis and Connor Nagan; and great-grandchildren Mariko Nishimura, and Bobby and Jack Ellis. He is predeceased by wife Haru, daughter Valerie (Mike Nagan), daughter-in-law Lynn Mizuki (Dean Nishimura), sisters Toyo Nakashiki and Shizuko Tamaki, and brother Toshimi.

For their support and loving care of Frank, the family wishes to thank Boyet, Sal, April, Divina, Monica, Reiko, Curtis, and Karen R. They enriched his life in many ways.

A celebration of Frank's life will be held in Spring, 2022, with friends and family invited to participate. Inurnment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that remembrances be made to Densho or the NVC Foundation Legacy Endowment.