In memoriam: Joe Yamakido, the lone resister at Jerome

Joe Yamakido
Joe Yamakido, 1922-2014 (photo courtesy of Matt Sanchez)

Very saddened to receive news over the weekend of the passing of Joe Yamakido. Joe was a good guy. He is featured on Disc 2 of our DVD receiving a tearful hug from his daughter Laureen at the JACL apology ceremony in 2002.

Joe gave a memorable interview many years ago to Martha Nakagawa in the Pacific Citizen, about using his judo skills to fend off an attack from other inmates in federal prison. He said he knew if he were to lose his footing and go down, he would not survive.

Joe was the only Nisei to resist the draft from the camp at Jerome. It took a lot to stand up against the government, without support from one’s community. To do it completely alone, without the backing of an organized group like the one at Heart Mountain, says a lot about his character. Learn more about Joe by watching his interview archived at Densho (free registration required).

Our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Thanks to one of Joe’s grandson’s, Matt Sanchez, for sharing the news:

Mr. Abe,

My Jichan, Joe Yamakido, passed away yesterday (February 21) at the age of 91. He was the lone resister at Jerome.

What an amazing life and legacy he left behind. He taught me what it means to stand up for what you believe in. Interned unjustly along with his entire family during WWII for being nothing more than an American citizen with Japanese ancestry, he was sent to camps first at the horse tracks in Santa Anita and later in Tule Lake and then Jerome. In a show of principle, he refused to be drafted until the American government gave back his family’s Constitutional rights. He was the “lone resister” at Jerome. For his stand, he was thrown in federal prison where he escaped at least one attempt on his life. He later relocated to Montana to work on sugar beet farms and then had to reunite with his family after the war and start from scratch. As a teen, I heard the stories constantly. Even if he repeated himself, which was often, I rarely tired of hearing them. As an almost middle-aged man now, I am so grateful that he shared them with us.

My Jichan had a work ethic unequaled. He could outwork men half his age. If something was broken, he could fix it. If something needed building, he would build it. Even at 80 years old, he could be seen walking three miles to town and back or even trying to ride his bicycle. In his mind, he was still a young judoka black belt who could do anything. His gardens were his pride and joy … second only to his full head of hair. He had a sense of humor you’d never expect, but if you tried to take his candy or cookies it was at risk of your own life and limb. Seriously. For a man who went through so much, he was tender and loved his kids and grandkids dearly. He was surrounded by three generations as he passed on. He will be missed.

The Nisei generation has lost a great one. And I just wanted to pay tribute to him here.

– Matt Sanchez

Update: March 11, 2014

2 thoughts on “In memoriam: Joe Yamakido, the lone resister at Jerome”

  1. Thank you Gene for your kind words. He left us an example to follow, as did all the resisters. You can’t replace the patriarch of the family, but all the memories keep him alive in our hearts for sure.

    Mr. Abe, thanks for all your continued efforts to educate the public about this. For the families, we are forever in your debt.

    Matt Sanchez
    Santa Rosa, CA

  2. Joe’s fight and spirit will be sorely missed. I hope Matt, you will continue to walk in his shoes.

    Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D.
    Santa Clarita, CA 91321

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