In 1942, Hiedo Murata, 52, was found dead at the Olson hotel in Pismo Beach, apparently from a fatal dose of strychnine.
The World War I veteran had been told he would have to leave Pismo Beach and be relocated to a Japanese internment camp.
Rather than leave his adopted hometown, Murata killed himself.
For 75 years, Murata’s body languished in an unmarked grave in the Arroyo Grande Cemetery, as the story of his life — and even the correct spelling of his name — faded out of memory.
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Now Murata’s memory is being honored, thanks to a community effort to purchase and install a headstone at his gravesite.
“From the time I first heard about the Japanese internment camp and that the parents of some of my school friends had been required to leave behind their homes, friends and businesses, I have thought it terribly wrong,” Arroyo Grande resident Deborah Love said. “When I learned of Mr. Murata, a veteran, taking what measures he thought to be less undignified than internment, I realized that it was much more than wrong, and unfathomable, but tragic.”
Now he will be remembered on Memorial Day as he should have all along.
Deborah Love, Arroyo Grande
Love, a member of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, said it seemed wrong for Murata to not have a proper grave marker, so she launched a GoFund Me campaign to raise money for a headstone.
In less than a month, she raised $1,100 and set a plan to install the headstone by Memorial Day, so that he could be celebrated with other fallen veterans on the holiday.
Santa Barbara Monumental Co. donated the headstone, and cemetery staff agreed to install it for free, however, so Love said they are making a donation to the Japanese Welfare Association in Murata’s name to help with the proposed East Cherry Garden project.
An official dedication ceremony is also being held at the cemetery at 10 a.m. Saturday. The public is invited to attend.
“Now he will be remembered on Memorial Day as he should have all along,” Love said.