Remembering Roger Sasaki and the Vancouver Celtic Memorial Project
by Gayle Koyanagi
Celtic Cannery was a cohesive Japanese Canadian community comprised of approximately 25 families who worked and successfully established their homes in the Southlands region of Vancouver, B.C. for decades before the war and internment. This historically significant area was designated as one of the “Places That Matter” in June of 2013 by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation. In order to enhance and bring focus to the commemorative plaque that pays tribute to this once vibrant and thriving community, a modest Japanese garden was installed at the corner of Celtic Avenue and Blenheim Street in the early spring of 2014.
Roger Sasaki was the driving spirit behind the Celtic Memorial initiative. Roger worked closely with several original members and descendants of the families of Celtic Cannery to emerge as the voice of the Celtic project. Although he was battling his own serious health problems, he never gave up on the project and worked tenaciously to its resolution. It was through his persistent advocacy, his effective negotiating skills, and under his benevolent leadership that the Vancouver Celtic Memorial garden was finally realized.
Roger was a humble soul, compelled by a strong sense of justice with an open-hearted, easy-going way about him. Roger had a natural talent for being able to welcome everyone into the fold. He was never afraid to reach out to others and establish lasting connections. He was a person who would step up and assume responsibility in a positive way. Roger’s recent passing makes the significance and importance of the memorial that much more poignant.
Not only does the memorial garden serve to pay tribute to the communities of Celtic but also to inspire us all to seek justice and truth, to selflessly be of service, and to ultimately create a life of meaning, the way that Roger Sasaki did.
Roger Koe Sasaki of Abbotsford, BC passed away on November 29, 2014 at the age of 67.