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Arnold Maeda, Manzanar Internee and Longtime Westside Resident, Passes Away at 94

Longtime Westsider who helped memorialize Manzanar internees passes away September 10

By Sam Catanzaro

Manzanar internee and longtime Westside resident Arnold Maeda passed away on September 10 at the age of 94.

In April of 1942, Arnold Maeda was 15 years old when he and his father Norman Toyoshige Maeda, were forcibly removed from their home and lined up on the northwest corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Venice Boulevard to be taken to the War Relocation Authority camp at Manzanar as prisoners.

“Instead of being worried about where we were going, I was obsessed with the fact that I had parted with my constant companion, my pet dog Boy. For a 15-year-old, that was unforgettably traumatic,” reads Maeda’s quote inscribed on a monument at the very corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Venice Boulevard where he and thousands of other people of Japanese ancestry were forced to report to in 1942.

Born on July 17, 1926, in Santa Monica, Maeda grew up in on the Westside where his parents ran a nursery business. During World War II, Maeda and his family were sent to the Manzanar concentration camp in California. After leaving the camp, Maeda worked as a chick sexer (distinguishing the gender of chicks), a technical illustrator in the aerospace industry and a life insurance salesman.

Arnold Maeda (center in red shirt) other former Mazanar internees, local lawmakers and activists celebrate the one-year anniversary of the VJAMM memorial in 2018. Photo: Sam Catanzaro.

Maeda would go on to become heavily involved in community organizations, including the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument Committee (VJAMM), where he helped create the monument that stands today at the intersection of Venice and Lincoln boulevards to memorialize the tragic chapter in American history.

“The VJAMM Committee mourns the loss of VJAMM Committee charter member Arnold Maeda, who passed away on September 10, 2020. One day shy of ten years ago, Arnold gave an informed and impassioned presentation at the first VJAMM community meeting, held at the Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple on September 11, 2010, in favor of permanently memorializing the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln Boulevards. The memorial would honor the 1,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu who assembled on the sidewalk in April, 1942 with only what they could carry,” VJAMM said in a statement. “The VJAMM Committee extends sympathy and condolences to Arnold’s family, including Arnold’s brother, Brian Maeda, also a VJAMM Committee charter member, who was born in Manzanar.”

Councilmember Mike Bonin, whose district includes the intersection of Venice and Lincoln boulevards where the VJAMM memorial stands, expressed his condolences surrounding Maeda’s passing, writing in a Facebook post “Arnold gave selflessly to his community and he will be dearly missed. Rest in Peace.”

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