Biography shared online at https://www.tcjacl.org/scholarships/biographies/
Earl Kazumi Tanbara, was born in Pleasenton, California in 1907 to Miyota and Takeno Tanbara who had immigrated to the United States from Okayama Ken, Japan, in the late 1890’s. His younger sister, Grace Tomiko Kurihara of San Francisco, CA, died in 1992. Son, Thomas M. Kurihara, of Arlington, VA, and two grandchildren survive Grace Kurihara. Earl died in 1974 and his cremains are interred in the Nomura family crypt at Lakewood Memorial Cemetery, Minneapolis. There are no surviving children.
Earl Tanbara graduated from Los Gatos High School, CA, in 1923 and received a BA degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1927. He worked for the Dollar Steamship Company from 1928 until 1939 when it was transferred to the U.S. Government and was the predecessor company of the American President Lines. He eventually served as the Director of Marketing for Dollar Steamship Co. He and Ruth traveled extensively around the world for Dollar Steamship Company.
Earl was united in marriage to Ruth Nomura Tanbara of Portland, OR, at the Centenary Wilber Methodist Church, Portland, on September 16, 1935. Ruth was one of the first Japanese Americans born in the Oregon, and attained a graduate degree in Economics from the University of Minnesota in 1955. She was one of the first second generation women to earn a graduate degree and retired from the YWCA as Director of Adult Education.
Earl played basketball, baseball, and tennis while attending the University of California. The Japanese American press portrayed him as the “heavy hitter” for the Nikkei San Jose Asahi baseball team that toured Japan in the 1930’s. In March of 1930 he was selected to play a preseason exhibition game against the major league Pittsburgh Pirates. He was an accomplished contract bridge player, winning a San Francisco Examiner contract bridge tournament in 1933 while working for Dollar Steamship Co. As an avid low handicap golfer, he was well prepared, carrying a left-handed wood and iron along with a full set of right-handed clubs.
In 1942, he relocated from Berkeley to a farm in Reedley, CA, with Ruth and his parents in an attempt to avoid wartime internment. The bad news was that the boundaries for relocating individuals of Japanese ancestry were moved further inland and they were facing relocation. The good news was that the U.S. Army officer who visited the farm to inform them of the need to move to an assembly center was a former high school classmate of Ruth from Portland. The officer offered them an opportunity to move anywhere East if they had friends who would accept them. They contacted friends in Minneapolis and they were placed on a military train headed for the Twin Cities. His parents chose not to go with them and were interned in Camp III, Poston, AZ and together with his sister Grace and son Tom. Earl and Ruth assisted over a 100 evacuees to leave camp and find a place in the Twin Cities. They also were active in placing a number of Japanese Americans in work situations in the Twin Cities during and after WWII. Earl and Ruth moved several times after arriving in the Twin Cities but eventually settled at 218 S. Avon St., St. Paul. When they moved into the neighborhood, a military officer from Fort Snelling made the rounds of the neighbors to inform them about Japanese Americans and their citizenship record and to avoid any misunderstandings when Nikkei soldiers, including Ruth’s brother, were invited for dinner while on weekend passes from the Japanese language schools at Fort Savage, University of Minnesota, and Fort Snelling. Earl worked selling automotive parts and glass and started the Pyramid Form Rubber Products (now Pyramid Trim Products) still in operation at Prior and University Avenue. He was active in many different civic activities including the Twin Cities JACL and Unity Church-Unitarian.
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