Winona Post & Shopper

Author: Lois Harvey
Puka Puka Parades, June 1991
This was printed in the WINONA POST AND SHOPPER on March 27, 1991

Thankfully, the war in the Persian Gulf is over, and will go down in our history books. What possible blessings could come out of the pain, suffering, devastation and hatred created in this, or any other war? In the days and years to come, undoubtedly, we will be hearing many stories of blessings resulting from Operation Desert Storm.

A blessing in my life came as a result of a war of long ago…World War II. Many readers of this story will not remember, or had not even been born at this stage in history. I was an eight-year-old girl, not understanding what war was all about, but knowing that because of a war, I had made a very special friend.

My special friend was Edward (Sakae) Tanigawa a Japanese-American, born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He proudly served in World War II, wearing the uniform of the United States Army, as part of the 100th Inf. Battalion of the 442 Regimental Combat Team. The training camp for this group of “Nisei” soldiers was Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. During a weekend pass, Eddie was befriended by my family. Whenever possible, his weekend passes were spent in our home, often accompanied by other soldier friends. There were many anti-Japanese sentiments being voiced by the towns people, as my family treated Eddie as a son and brother. The United States was at war with Japan…How dare the Lowe family entertain Japanese soldiers in their home. Even more loudly were the protestations of allowing Eddie to drive our family car and to take the Lowe family car and to take the Lowe girls swimming at Whitewater State Park. We thank the Lord that we chose to ignore the protesting…. as these visits added a unique charm to our lives. Eddie was a person very small in stature, but…oh, so big with his kindness, gentleness, thoughtfulness and loving ways. I would look forward to his visits and be in my glory walking down the street holding his hand and I loved helping him shop for a gift for his wife living in Hawaii.

My tenth birthday began on a sad note as this was the morning Eddie would board a train after spending his leave with us. He would be returning to Louisiana and maneuvers, before being sent to the battlefields of Italy and the European Theatre of war. As Eddie boarded the train, he told mom to forget about putting sugar in my birthday cake, as I was sweet enough without it. Amid the excitement of the morning (and wondering if we would ever see Eddie again), mom made the birthday cake and did forget to add the sugar, but with very sweet frosting no one was any the wiser.

The “Nisei” soldiers were constantly trying to prove, beyond any doubt, their loyalty to the United States because of the bitter struggle surrounding the war with Japan. These soldiers and their families in Hawaii had endured nearly a century of struggle, and with Pearl Harbor fresh in everyone’s minds, the “nisei” had their work cut out for them. The 100th Infantry went on to prove that they were made of the “right stuff”, and history has recorded their victory battles over the Nazi troops and the countless purple hearts they won.

The “V” mail letters kept coming to us during Eddie’s stint in Italy and how thankful we were when the war had ended and Eddie was safely back in Hawaii. Our communications and Tanigawa’s love continued year after year. By 1964, my mom was dying with cancer. Through a dream (I call it The Lord’s Plan) I knew that mom had to see her “son” once more. It was a difficult day when we put her on the plane, wondering if she could endure the trip to Hawaii and make the return flight back to Minnesota. She spent fifteen unforgettable days as a guest in her “son’s” home and was royally treated as a “queen mother” Eddie and his family were returning the love mom had so willingly given to Eddie so many years before. My reunion would not come until twenty-five years later, on my thirty-fifth birthday, when Eddie and his wife, Stella, visited us in Winona, Mn. It was a glorious celebration! They had carefully carried flowers and fruit on the plane bringing their Islands to share with us. A year later, they would make a return trip, cementing even more firmly our “family ties”.

When I was seventeen years old and working at an insurance company, I took out a policy that was to be my trip to Hawaii. In 1971 my husband and I fulfilled that dream and saw all the wonders and cultures of Hawaii through “our family” eyes. We were treated with such love, it tempted us to make the Islands our permanent home.

In 1976, The Club 100 members (a very active organization formed as a result of the close bonds of friendship in World War II) scheduled a bicentennial tour of the U.S. and Canada. Somehow, Eddie managed to steer the tour in our direction. Meeting their bus in LaCross, WI was sight to behold! The bus was loaded with beautiful Japanese-Americans and we were surrounded with their wonderful excitement and love radiating as we once again were united with Eddie and Stella, their arms overflowing with leis and fruit (and again it was my birthday).

In addition to Eddie and Stella, the Tanigawa family consists of four adult children, spouses and several grandchildren. Each and every one is dear to our hearts and are treated as our nieces and nephews, as if the same blood flows through our veins. A special blessing is that Eddie and Stella named a doughter [sic] for me (Lois Anne Tanigawa).

As a result of this kinship created so many years ago, I have always been Hawaiian and Japanese oriented. When I was a little girl, I knew if ever I had a daughter, her name would be Lani (meaning Heavenly Child). It turned out that our daughter’s name is Loni, but we still feel it is Hawaiian. Whenever a report was to be made in school, my Japanese-American brother and Hawaii were always my best topics. My children and husband have had the Hawaiian spirit inbred in them and have notobjected [sic] for one moment. They, too, continue to believe that the Tanigawas are family and we pray it will continue through future generations. Eddie is very proud that three generations of the Lowe family have been guests in the Tanigawa home.

On June 16, 1990, our daughter Loni, and Kevin Yungerberg, both of Winona, were united in marriage on the beach at Waikiki. My namesake and her family were the attendants, and three generations of the Tanigawas were were [sic] present to witness this marriage in Paradise.

Are there blessings of a war? In my mind, there is no doubt because without World War II, my path would never have crossed with Eddie (Sakae) Tanigawa’s path and I cannot imagine my life without him and his wonderful, loving family.

Thank you Lord, for my blessing because of a war!

Lois A. Harvey

Winona, Minnesota