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William Hirabayashi

William Hirabayashi

September 12, 1923 - August 6, 2017

William “Bill” Hirabayashi, age 93, passed away unexpectedly Sunday August 6, 2017 while at Regions Hospital.
Bill was born in Thomas, Washington and graduated from nearby Auburn High School before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Filled with patriotism, Bill rushed to a recruiting office to enlist. Despite his U.S. citizenship, Bill was rejected as an “enemy alien.” Fearing a nonexistent danger of sabotage from U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry, the U.S. Army rounded up all Japanese Americans living on the west coast and confined them in remote “relocation” concentration camps surrounded by armed guards.
While confined in the Tule Lake camp, Bill married his childhood sweetheart and love of his life, Anice. Eventually, U.S. citizens deemed loyal through a multi-part vetting process were allowed to leave the camp if they had a job in the interior of the United States away from the coasts. Bill inundated the post office with resumes during his job search, eventually impressing Ernest Byfield. Mr. B, as Bill called him, hired Bill to work on his farm and estate near Chicago, Illinois. Years later, Bill asked Mr. Byfield why he was chosen out of the multitude of job applicants. The reason was a postscript Bill added at the end of his resume. “I’ll do anything. I’m a Jap of all trades.” Mr. Byfield decided that anyone who could retain his sense of humor through the obstacles and injustice that Bill faced could certainly handle anything that would happen on the estate.
After Mr. Byfield’s death, Bill and Anice moved to Minnesota to be closer to family. Bill’s parents had moved to Minneapolis when their internment camp closed. Minnesota was more welcoming to relocating Japanese Americans than many other states. Bill had previous training and experience in automotive repair in his home state of Washington. He added Minneapolis trade school training and got a job as an auto body repairman. As Bill’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, he opened his own auto repair shop, eventually becoming an auto dealer for Jaguar, British Motor Corporation, Renault, Bertone and Jeep. He also owned two auto parts stores and a gas station.
Bill was preceded in death by his wife and parents, four brothers, Martin, Grant, Dan and Sam and one sister, Kay. Bill is survived sons Ron (Carol) and Larry (Pat) and grandchildren Glen, Christa, Mike (Mari) and Brian (Kalia) and many nephews and nieces. Great-children Tom, Malani, Alix and Baby Anice brought joy and sunshine to his retirement years.
Bill met life with a joke and a smile. He made friends wherever he went. He remembered the good stuff and believed his wife when she assured him that any bad stuff was only temporary. Bill never completely retired. Like his father, Bill continued to live a useful life, helping his family and friends while joining in the fun of the Minnesota Nikkei Project.
A Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, August 13 at the Minnesota Cremation Society and Edina Funeral Home at 7110 France Avenue South in Edina, Minnesota. You are encouraged to come with a story to share.
12:00 - Noon - Visitation
1:00 p.m. - Service
Luncheon follows.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Minnesota Nikkei Project, Twin Cities JACL or your favorite charity.