Earl Kazumi and Ruth (Nomura)Tanbara

     Earl and Ruth (Nomura) Tanbara played a prominent role in the resettlement of Japanese Americans in Minnesota following World War II and in the foundation of several organizations serving Japanese Americans.

     Ruth Nomura was born in 1908 in Portland, Oregon and was one of the first Nisei born in Oregon, and the first Nisei woman from Portland to enroll in what is now Oregon State University, earning a B.S. in Home Economics. 
     In 1926, as a winner of an essay contest for Nisei students, she traveled by steamship to Japan.  She wrote that this trip “enriched my life and gave me a deep appreciation of Japan, its people, arts and civilization.  It encouraged me to study the language, flower arrangement, holiday festivals, the tea ceremony, daily customs, Japanese cooking and serving, music, arts and crafts, particularly pottery, painting and calligraphy.”
     In 1940, she authored “Japanese Food Recipes”, containing complete menus, vocabulary and sketches to illustrate cutting, serving and arranging of foods.  This is one of the early books on Japanese cooking in English, which helped introduce Japanese recipes and methods to the Nisei. She married Earl Tanbara on September 16, 1935 in Portland, Oregon. 
     Earl Kazumi Tanbara was born in Pleasanton, California in 1907 to Miyota and Takeno Tanbara, Japanese immigrants from Okayama Ken, Japan. Earl graduated from Los Gatos High School, California, in 1923 and received a B.A. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1927. Earl played basketball, baseball, and tennis while attending the University of California.  The Japanese American press called him  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.  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 Company.  Earl and Ruth traveled extensively around the world for Dollar Steamship Company.
     When World War II began, Earl and Ruth Tanbara were living in Berkeley, California. They relocated to a farm in Reedley, California, with his parents in an attempt to avoid wartime internment.  The boundaries for relocating individuals of Japanese ancestry were later moved further inland and they faced relocation.  A U.S. Army officer who visited the farm to inform them of the need to move to an assembly center, was a former Portland high school classmate of Ruth's.  He offered them an opportunity to relocate  East if they had friends who would accept them.  They contacted friends in Minneapolis and they were placed on a military train to the Twin Cities.  His parents, Miyota and Takeno Tanbara chose not to go with them and were evacuated to the Poston, Arizona internment camp block 308-14-D .  Later,  Earl's sister,  Grace Kurihara and son Thomas M. Kurihara, who were evacuated to the Pomona Assembly Center, them moved to Heart Mountain internment camp, were able to transfer to Poston block 308-14-A in December of 1942.  
     Earl and Ruth Tanbara assisted over a 100 internees 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.
     During the registration process for moving to a relocation center, the Provost Marshall of the U.S. Army gave Earl and Ruth the option to go as volunteers to the eastern or midwestern U. S. to help build community acceptance and resettle Japanese American internees from the relocation centers.  They chose to come to St. Paul,  Minnesota, partly because Ruth's brother, Paul Nomura, was enrolled in the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Camp Savage.
     Ruth wrote, “Our main assignment was to build community acceptance.  So each week, Earl and I were invited to different church groups, youth groups, schools, colleges and farming communities to give talks on Japanese Americans. ... As there were only 10 Japanese families living in St. Paul before the war, many Minnesotans were not acquainted with Americans citizens of Japanese extraction.”
     Many people wrote to the Tanbaras from the internment camps wanting to resettle in Minnesota.  “In the beginning, we helped by opening our small home to families and students, but the numbers increased beyond our expectations.  It became necessary to form a resettlement committee, and the Council of Human Relations was organized.  Serving on the committee were social workers, board members of the YWCA, the YMCA, the International Institute and Family Service Agency, church leaders, college faculty members, and interested community people.” 
     Warren Burger, a St. Paul attorney who would become Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was the first Council chairman.  The Tanbaras also helped establish the St. Paul Resettlement Committee, which managed a hotel for evacuees from camp, and provided temporary housing, meals and assistance adjusting to Minnesota winters. They also helped evacuees obtain employment, continue their college education, and find retailers and services who would accept Japanese American customers.
     At the end of the war, Earl and Ruth decided to stay in Minnesota.  In 1953, Ruth received her Master's degree in Home Economics from the University of Minnesota.She worked from 1942-1972 as Adult Education Director and International YWCA Program Director for the St. Paul YWCA.  Ruth had directed the participation of Japanese Americans in the first Festival of Nations in 1947, working with many volunteers.  She was a charter member in 1972 when Japan America Society was formed and served on its board of directors.  She was one of the founding members of the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee, which began in 1955, and served as president of the board 1966-1972.
     Ruth was a longtime member of Unity Unitarian Church in St. Paul, where she arranged flowers for Sunday morning services for more than 35 years.  Her other pastimes included travel, teaching flower arrangement and gourmet cooking, and various arts and crafts.The Japanese Garden at the YWCA on Kellogg Blvd was named in her honor and she later retired from the YWCA as Director of Adult Education.  Ruth Tanbara passed away on January 4, 2008, at the age 100.  Her husband, Earl Tanbara died in 1974.

Primary sources: http://www.twincitiesjacl.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={958EA359-FB7E-454F-9CAC-8EE72831A7E6}

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