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Archive for January, 1997

Gates Ajar — January 1997

Sunday, January 5th, 1997


*****     THE PASSING OF A GREAT FRIEND     *****

Masakatsu TomitMas Tomita circa 1990a Remembered

Friends of MacDonald lost their best friend in July of 1996 when Masakatsu Tomita, Chairman of the Friends of MacDonald, died of lymphoma while still in his mid-forties.

Mas was a remarkable, complex individual; a far-sighted visionary with great intellect, an effective business executive, and also a man of uncommon sensitivity to people and place.

The enthusiasm which Mas devoted to Friends of MacDonald (he once said he intended to make the study of Ranald MacDonald his “life work”) led this tiny organization to accomplish a great deal within a few years.

Mas’s admiration for MacDonald, the thoughtful adventurer, seemed boundless; philosophically they were probably much akin.  Mas first read of Ranald in a Japanese magazine article.  References in it to “Ft. George” misled Mas, who did not realize that Astoria was once called Fort George.  Some months later, a request for funds for a MacDonald monument in Astoria was discussed in a Japanese group to which Mas belonged.

Mas was swift to become involved in the project.  He soon was named chairman of FOM and turned his tremendous energy to it.

(Meanwhile, Mas was also providing vigorous leadership to building Epson Portland Inc., the printer and computer plant which he brought to Oregon.  It was Seiko Epson’s first such plant in the Americas.  Mas fell in love with Oregon at first site – but he said later that it took him “two and a half years, seven trips to Portland” before ground was finally broken in the Sunset Corridor in 1985.  Mas’s death came a decade to the day after the first printer rolled off Epson assembly lines in July, 1986.)

During his tenure as FOM chairman, FOM’s program included building an archive of MacDonald-related documents in English and Japanese; developing a bibliography of materials related to MacDonald and his era; participating in the erection of monuments in the U.S. and Japan; sponsoring seminars featuring notable speakers; providing support (which included a sizable donation from EPI) for the reprinting of Ranald’s Narrative by the Oregon historical Society; publishing a scholarly translation of MacDonald’s Glossary; producing a taped history; sponsoring an anniversary trip to Toroda, Washington, where Ranald died; newsletters, member events …

Mas paid frequent tribute to help from people at EPI and in FOM who worked with him to reach goals.  Yet most of the goals were Mas’s dreams — and many of us who did work with him can only recall, with awe and admiration, the power of his intellect, of his inspiration and of his vision.  FOM’s sympathies go to his family, friends and colleagues.

Sayonara, Mas … Sayonara.

~~ Barbara Peeples


My Turn by Bruce Berney

The Ranald MacDonald birthplace monument continues to be an important surprise to people visiting Fort Astoria on the corner of 15th and Exchange Streets in Astoria, OR.  The City’s new cruise boat industry had brought hundreds of people on walking tours of downtown Astoria, and most of them find MacDonald’s adventure to be an interesting fact on which to reflect.

Ours is not the only MacDonald monument in the world.  The first was the handsome gravestone erected at the cemetery at Toroda, near Republic, Washington.  Next, Rishiri Island established an attractive wooden sign at the site of MacDonald’s first landing on an inhabited Japanese island.  Lat year, the Rotary Club of Nagasaki erected a stone monument at the site where MacDonald taught.  Later, a typhoon destroyed the Rishiri sign, so on October 23, 1996, a handsome stone monument was installed by the Rotary Club of Rishiri.  Dedication ceremonies at monuments are always elaborate events with visiting historians, government dignitaries  and Friends of MacDonald members and media coverage.

We extend our congratulations to Jo Ann Roe, a charter member of FOM, whose book Ranald MacDonald:  Pacific Rim Adventurer, will be published in April or May by Washington State University Press.  The book features an index, notes, bibliography and illustrations.  The paperback edition will sell for $18.95, and the hardcover, $35.00.  A major contribution to knowledge about MacDonald’s life, the recounting of his importance to British Columbia history is very rewarding.  If you find it more convenient than a local bookstore, add $5.00 shipping/handling and order it from Clatsop County Historical Society gift shop.

Two years ago, we started as annual tradition of meeting at the birthplace monument on February 3rd at 11:30 a.m., then reconvening at a local restaurant for an informal FOM lunch.  If you can’t come this year, put it on your calendar for next year.  If you are coming from a distance any other tine, ask CCHS to line me up to be on hand to greet you.  I always enjoy meeting other Friends of MacDonald!


Many have given to the Friends of MacDonald, care of CCHS, in memory of “Mas”:

Mr. & Mrs. George I. Azumano

Ms. Eloise J. Barry

Mr. Bruce R. Berney

Mr. Hidekazu Fujimori

Mr. & Mrs. A. Funaki

Mr. Toru Hashinoguchi

Mr. Yuji Hirabayashi

Mr. Takanobu Ibori

Mr. Takayoshi Ito

Mr. Edward Y. Kawasaki

Mr. Steve Klein

Mr. Hiroki Komatsu

Mr. Allen R. Mann

Mr. Kenichi Minatoya

Mr. Akio Mitsuishi

Ms. Barbara C. Peeples

Mr. & Mrs. Haruhiko Takada

Ms. Genevieve Walker

Mr. & Mrs. Masashi Yabana

Mr. & Mrs. Masaru Yatabe

Mr. C. N. Winningstad

Mr. & Mrs. Michitaka Okamoto

Mr. & Mrs. Homer Yasui

Mr. M. Isono

Mr. & Mrs. Nobuaki Ishikawa

Mr. Stephen S. McConnel

Mr. Haruhiko Gyoda

Mr. Tsuyoshi Nagano

Mr. Tetsuhiro Yoshimoto

Mr. Manabu Yoshikawa

Mrs. Mas (Machiko) Tomita

Epson Corp.

Shokookai of Portland