|Death: ||Jun. 15, 2011|
Ernest S. Iiyama 99, died on June 15, surrounded by family and friends. Ernie's life was marked by political activism in the Japanese American community and broader society, a love of travel, walking, and good food, and participation in a large and loving family. Born in Oakland, his family returned to Japan when he was young and he attended high school there. After graduation, Ernie moved back to the U.S. where he helped found the Oakland chapter of the Japanese Americans Citizen League (JACL) in 1934 as well as the Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) Young Democrats of the East Bay. In 1942, Ernie, along with more than 110,000 Japanese Americans, was ordered into a concentration camp by the U.S. government. He was elected to the camp council at both Tanforan Assembly Center and Topaz concentration camp. Ernie met his wife Chizu in Topaz. After leaving "camp" they were married and later moved to Chicago where Ernie became a machinist and a chief steward for the United Electrical Workers of America. Returning to the Bay Area in 1956, the Iiyamas joined the Contra Costa chapter of the JACL and were supporters of the Civil Rights Movement and early participants in protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam. In the 1980s the Iiyamas became active in the National Coalition for Redress and Reparation, seeking justice for the Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. In 1983 Ernie was one of seven people who received reparations from Alameda County for being fired in 1942 because of the evacuation. Ernie and Chizu were also prominent in the National Japanese American Historical Society. They worked tirelessly to tell the truth about the internment experience, speaking for many years before audiences throughout Northern California. Ernie is survived by his wife Chizu, his daughter Laura, son Mark, and daughter Patti and son-in-law Jerry Freiwirth. Services will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to either the National Japanese Historical Society, 1684 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94115 or J-SEI, 2126 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA 94704.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on June 26, 2011.
Created by: Michael Harrington
Record added: Jun 26, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 71984901