JUGORO IRIE HEADSTONE
By Roy Inoyue
In the April 2010 Editions of The Bulletin and the Nikkei Voice, I had placed an article requesting information about Jugoro Irie. He immigrated to Canada from Kumamoto Ken, Nabe mura, Aza Nabe. He had passed away in the Comox Valley on July 3, 1935. Some time after 1942 his headstone was taken from the grave site and used as a base for a post which supported a beam of a house in Union Bay on Vancouver Island.
During the period between 1942 and 1950 when Japanese people were forcefully evacuated from the supposed protected area along the Pacific coast, grave sites were left unattended. The cemetery in Cumberland had returned to its natural forest setting and most of the headstones were up-ended by trees growing in and around the grave sites. In Jugoro Irie’s case, it appears his toppled headstone was removed from the cemetery to be used for the purpose mentioned above.
The house had changed hands a few times and in March of 2010, Asante Penny, a woman staying in the house owned by Sharon McGarvey was shown the headstone and took a picture of it. She sent it to a friend to have the etching translated. Finding out what it was, she contacted me at the Kamloops Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre wondering what should be done. The April article resulted in two phone calls that mentioned that as children, they recalled Jujoro visiting their homes on week ends for dinner.
On July 22, I was able to visit the house where the headstone was used. Sharon McGarvey kindly invited Betty and I to see the headstone. She mentioned that she would like to see the stone removed and placed in its rightful place. The following day, after Village councillor William Bronco Moncrief had gone through the ceremony to receive the prestigious award from the Emperor of Japan, “the Order of the Rising Sun,” I had the chance to sit and chat with him. I had written him about the stone earlier and we further discussed what could be done. He and the village public works foreman did an inspection of the home and in early September, replaced the stone with a cement base. The plan is to have the headstone added to the present monument in the Japanese cemetery.
Over the past twenty five years, the Village of Cumberland has been doing work to recognize the past Asian presence. The work they have done for the Japanese presence are cleaning up the cemetery and fencing the site, a large paved parking lot built, painting the picket fence white, a wheelchair-accessible paved road from the parking to the cemetery gateway, signage on the road leading to the cemetery, plaques placed at the cemetery, and a brick walkway built from the gate to the monument to make a flat area for people to stand when attending services at the cemetery. A memorial cairn is placed at the foot of the Japanese cemetery denoting the importance of Asian involvement during the coal mining days of early Cumberland. The original Japanese Number One camp site is now a park with thirty-one cherry trees commemorating the sites where there were Japanese homes prior to the war. The cemetery and park sites were acquired to become part of the village. They have also had a mountain originally named “Jap” Mountain changed to “Nikkei” Mountain.
The Village plans to properly maintain the cemetery and other future projects at the site. To do so, it has created a special fund to carry out these projects. Donations to this fund will assist the village for Jugoro Irie’s headstone project and other future needs. Please send donations to: Village of Cumberland, 2673 Dunsmuir Ave., PO Box 340. Cumberland, BC., V0R 1S0. Please mark “Donation for Retrieved Head Stone.”