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Don Maeda still making crowns at 86 - Part 4 of 4

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Raising a family

Janet (Carlson) is the eldest daughter. After she earned a doctorate she was on the faculty of Macalester College for many years. She has a grown son, Matthew. The second daughter, Joan, is a writer who earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. She also manages a bookstore and has five children, Nate, Megan, Brynna, Eben and Jonathan. The third daughter, Donna, has a Ph.D and a law degree. She lives in California, where she teaches at Occidental College.

The eldest son, Bruce, has a Masters degree and is the PreK-8 Principal at Minnehaha Academy, a private Christian K-12 school in Minneapolis. He has thee children, Caleb, Micah and Laura. The youngest son, David, is the City Clerk of Minnetonka.

Maeda also has a granddaughter, Amara.

The Maeda children and grandchildren with Don at the cemetery site of his wife Kay. (Maeda family photo)

Cars and family drives

Maeda has a passion for cars and driving. He recalls owning a series of Dodge cars, starting with a post-war model in 1946. He ordered it and waited for the factories to catch up with the demand after four years of war production halted all civilian vehicle manufacturing. It was also their honeymoon car.

He bought other Dodge models in 1951 and 1958. In 1969 he bought a used Plymouth 88 station wagon with three rows of seats – the parents in the front, the girls in the middle – and the boys facing the rear in the back.

“We always thought that was the perfect car,” he said, assuming that the boys loved being back there on their own. It was not until years later that he learned differently.

“They hated the jump seat,” he added. “They said, ‘You always got to see where we were going, and we always saw where we’d been’.”

In the 1980s Maeda switched to Honda cars and drove his 1992 model for 18 years.

“I bought a Civic now and that will last me the rest of my driving days,” he added, noting that he has 9,000 miles logged in just the past nine months.

Don Maeda as a boy on the running board of his father's 1936 Plymouth. (Maeda family photo)

Maeda said he and Kay enjoyed driving and taking the family on road trips to visit Grandma and Grandpa Kubo in Mitchell, Nebraska until they passed away in the 1960s. They would also visit Kay’s two brothers who worked at newspaper in a small Kansas town until around 1997.

As the kids moved out he and Kay continued their road vacations out west, or took weekend drives through northern Wisconsin back roads – an outing he still enjoys on his own.

Reflections on life

Sometimes Maeda wonders what his life would have been like had he and Kay moved back to Seattle. When he visits his daughter in Los Angeles, he notices all of the diverse people and thinks about how different it would be to be around more Asians.

Don and Kay Maeda in the 1990s.

Initially reluctant to join the Twin Cites chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, he did so in later years at the encouragement of his children. He says he enjoys the events and meeting with other JACL members of his own age and that have shared a similar experience.

Maeda was recently featured in a TC-JACL Oral History Committee video of Nisei internees. Produced by the Twin Cities Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League as a step toward recording and preserving the stories of its ‘greatest generation’, the video was made with the support of a grant from the National Park Service and the help of award winning documentary filmmaker Bill Kubota. Maeda was one of just over a dozen internees out of just over 100 still living in Minnesota.

Today, Maeda reflects that most of his friends have died, and with Kay now passed on, he said it is work and family that keeps him busy and in the present. He and Kay built a good life in Minnesota, though, and in the end he said it is family that is what matters most.

(Special thanks to Janet Carlson, the Maeda family and the Twin Cities JACL chapter for assistance in organizing and revising this story for accuracy and for making several photos available.)

* This article was originally published in the Asian American Press on June 12, 2011

© 2011 Asian American Press

communities families health Japanese American Citizens League
About the Author

Thomas J. LaVenture is the Managing Editor of the Asian American Press, pan-Asian, English language weekly publication based in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a circulation of 15,000. He has worked at the paper since 1997 as a writer and with related nonprofits and became the managing editor in 2001. He has also worked as a staff writer at The Daily Journal in International Falls, Minnesota in 2008, and is currently readying to work at The Garden Island daily newspaper in Kaua'i, Hawai'i in July 2011. He will continue to assist with Asian American Press operations for the time being. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Superior in 1997 with a degree in Political Science and Journalism. He is also a U.S. Army veteran.  

Updated June 2011

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