Lincoln County Historical Museum’s new exhibit will chronicle the patriotism of Japanese Americans during World War II
Lincoln County Historical Museum executives needed little time to wrap up a quick $75,000 fundraiser to add an exhibit about Japanese American families in the county.
Hershey’s John Frels donated the last $300 Wednesday afternoon, said Jim Griffin, director-curator of the museum located near Scout’s Rest Ranch and Wild West Arena in North Platte.
That completed a $25,000 local match to complete a challenge issued in mid-August by 90-year-old Lincoln County native Roy Yanagida, who now lives in Lincoln.
Yanagida, the last surviving child of early 1900s immigrant Charles Yanagida, paid $25,000 up front and agreed to double that amount if the museum could raise $25,000.
That money was raised in just two months, including donations of $2,500 from Sandhills State Bank and $5,000 from NebraskaLand Bank. Both are based in North Platte.
“Now I just have to continue working with the architect to finalize the plans” to remodel part of the museum’s main hall, Griffin said Wednesday.
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The U.S.-Japan expo is to be opened by the end of next summer under another condition set by Yanagida, he said.
North Platte architect Stephen Granger was hired to design changes to the north and east ends of the main hall. This area now includes the old post office, telephone switchboard and medical equipment.
Most of that equipment will be moved to other parts of the museum complex, Griffin said. Another new exhibit at Lee Bird Field airport in North Platte is set to face the US-Japan exhibit.
Several Japanese immigrant families settled between North Platte and Hershey during the first decades of the 20th century. They farmed and raised cattle on leased land because state law then did not allow ethnic Japanese to own it.
Other first-generation “Issei” found jobs or owned businesses in North Platte and the county, Griffin and Yanagida said.
Many second-generation immigrant “Nisei” children graduated from college before or after World War II, they added.
Their ranks included Distinguished Service Medal winner Ben Kuroki, a veteran of 58 air combat missions in Europe and the Pacific, and three members of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team who rose to prominence fighting in Italy. and in France.
Griffin said Kent Matsutani, another descendant of early Japanese Americans from Lincoln County, called for donations of money and artifacts after seeing an article about the project in the Telegraph on Wednesday.