Yasu Teramura, a longtime resident of Ontario, Oregon, passed away peacefully in his sleep from natural causes. He passed on January 27, 2021 in Puyallup, Washington at the age of 98.
He was born in Lents, Oregon, a suburb of Portland, on November 18, 1922 to Uno and Kisuke Teramura. He was the middle son of a family of 6. They lived in a two-story house and they shared the house with the Furukawa family. The family farmed parcels of land around the Johnson Creek area and Yasu’s father would log the hillside of Mount Scott. They would send logs to the sawmill, cut firewood for the house and sell firewood during the winter. Yasu would talk about the horses they had kept for farming and logging, the crosscut saw that his dad used to cut the trees, the swimming hole at the top of Mount Scott, the cuckoo clock he had to wind every day and walking to the movie theater.
The soil around the Johnson Creek wasn’t as good as they needed to grow farm vegetables so the two families eventually leased property on the Clackamas River. They moved to the Logan area of Clackamas county. During the summer the older boys would stay out in the field and tend to the crops while Yasu’s mother would stay in town (Portland) where they had a spot to sell their produce in Yamhill Market.
Yasu started grade school in Clackamas County, Oregon at Battin Grade School and then moved to Lower Logan School. He graduated from Oregon City High School. He participated in FFA during high school and had the opportunity to travel across Oregon to see farming and ranching that was taking place in the state. There is a picture of Yasu from 1941 standing on the pipeline that runs by the family farm in Ontario. He did not know at the time he would be farming and raising his family right next to that pipeline in the future.
Once out of High School, Yasu attended Adcox Technical School in Portland. He studied diesel engine mechanics. He worked during this time as a houseboy for Mrs. Jackson to help pay for room and board while he attended school.
When the war broke out with Japan, an Executive Order to remove Japanese people from the West coast was invoked. Yasu and the family were sent to the Portland Assembly Center, in Portland, Oregon. Yasu couldn’t stand being cooped up with so many people. A company representative for Amalgamated Sugar Company came to the detention center looking for people to work the sugar beet fields in Eastern Oregon. Yasu signed up to go and he ended up living in a tent in Adrian, Oregon.
In July of 1944 Yasu was drafted into the army and joined the 442nd infantry regiment, F company. He landed at LeHarve France and was finally stationed in Italy. He would always talk about the train stopping in Paris, close to the Eiffel Tower and his escapades of climbing the tower. While stationed in Italy he somehow got chosen to be the cook for most of his time during the war. When World War II was over, he remained during occupation. In his free time, he travelled the countryside taking pictures and exploring. Yasu was discharged from service in October of 1946. In November 2011, Yasu received a Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in Washington DC for his service in the 442nd, F company, 2nd battalion. Many of the memories of the War, while locked up in his mind for many years, Yasu later in life began to recite them as vivid as the day they happened.
After World War II, Yasu moved to Ontario, Oregon. He worked for his brother Kay and spent many hours on a caterpillar working for Mark Sumida. He eventually got a big break by growing lettuce and launched his career as a farmer. He started leasing land around that pipeline he stood on in 1941 and started his farming business. During this time, he met Marjorie (Midge) Miyake. They married in 1951 and had 5 children, Cynthia, Joyce, Tom, Mike and Jennifer. Yasu and Midge would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary February 2021.
Yasu loved to eat and he loved to fish. He always made sure to have plenty of food for the table. If you went fishing with him you couldn’t stand too close to him because if you hooked a fish, he would grab your pole to reel it in (and most of the time he lost the fish for you).
He also liked being in his shop. He was innovative and creative. He spent much of his time figuring out new ways to do things, things he was going to build and what tools he needed to accomplish this. He was one of the first to build a field going forklift to load lettuce crates filled with onions. He also introduced a revolutionary concept of lifting onions so they could dry in the field.
Yasu was a member of the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple. He was always fixing and building things for the temple. He built the temple’s first semi-commercial dough rollers to make the Japanese treat called kakimochi.
He was active in his community and served on various boards for the Temple and for the Ontario School District.
Yasu is survived by his wife, Midge, daughters Cynthia (Delbert), Joyce (Eddie), Jennifer and son Tom (Tandra), 7 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Yasu was preceded in death by his son Mike and his siblings, Kay, Mae, Haru, Kaz, and Tadao.
We will all miss his smile, sense of humor and his many stories. We thank him for all of the wisdom and knowledge he had imparted on us and we are all better for having known Yasu.
A memorial and celebration of Yasu’s life will be held at a later date.
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