Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 448: Visiting a Legend!

Ever had tea with a legend?
I have.
Meet Mary Kageyama Nomura!
I had read about the "Songbird of Manzanar."
And I remember watching Huel Howser interview her.

Born Mary Kageyama, one of five children,
born in 1925 to Machi and Tomitaro .
Mother, Machi, taught Shamisen, Opera and Odori.
Mary credits her Mother, for her love of music.
Father, Tomitaro, was a carpenter and calligrapher.
But, by age 8, Mary and her siblings had lost both parents.
An orphanage loomed , but 17 year old brother, Frank
and 16 year old sister, Mae dropped out of school ...
to support and keep the family together.

Mary at the piano with her Sister

In 1942, at age 16, Mary's family was sent to Manzanar ...

one of ten camps, where 110,000 Japanese Americans
were imprisoned during World War II.

Singing with the girls social club, the Modernaires
at dances and camp events, she became known as ... 
"The Songbird of Manzanar".

While in camp, Mary met Shi Nomura.
A camp leader and a bit older.

The book,  I Am An American, is about Shiro Nomura.
Married in 1945,  they had 5 children.
Later opening Shi's Fish Market in Garden Grove ...
a mainstay for the Asian community.
 Mary gave up her musical career for ...
motherhood and helping in their market.

When her children were grown and the market closed ...
Mary's talent resurfaced, and she was in demand.

Awards, performances, interviews and return trips to Manzanar.

In 2012 Mary was Grand Marshall of Nisei Week Parade.

Now a vibrant 88, a fortuitous age in Japan, 
with 12 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren 
and numerous nieces, nephews and family ...
you might think she would slow down?
But,  just last Sunday she performed with ...

a large audience sat spellbound, as young ladies ...

dressed from the 40's, sang camp songs with angelic voices.
And then, the "Songbird of Manzanar" sang.

Lucky to visit with Mary, I have a new hero!
Her humor, intelligence, and many skills are amazing.
She is a talented gardener, cook, and ...
master seamstress (creating Designs by Meri).
Beautiful, tall, graceful, energetic ...
I asked for her secret or advice?

"Plan not to get old, stay active."

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