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Go-Getter Extraordinaire

Yo Maeda called from her cell phone letting us know she was thoroughly lost. “You’re not too far away,” I told her. “Back track, I’ll lead you.” In a couple of minutes, she was here, safely. She had brought a lot of things for us to price, for our coming Hanamatsuri. Carton after carton full of dolls, jewelry, toy, fans, etc. kept coming out of her little Prius.

I asked, “Gosh, where did you get all this? “From my friends,” she answered. “I am not afraid to beg, if it is for the Center. Help me clean these things.” We went through “the loot,” and after selecting what could sell at Hanamatsuri, ended with two extraordinary objects demanding special attention. One was a gorgeous antique oiran doll, all dressed in brown silk, either pre-war or made during the Occupation. The other was an astonishing five-storied pagoda, constructed with five-yen pieces, and created in Japan for Ed Parr, then head of the kendo group, and a prolific photographer. Each coin is tightly joined to another with a strong silk cord. The object has a profound message: besides go-en meaning five yen, it also translates as the unique quality which bonds people forever. Naturally, too, as long as you keep the money pagoda in your house, you’ll never be out of money. And a five story pagoda made with five yen coins reminds one of the lucky double five. So, we decided that those two gems could enrich the Silent Auction planned for September.

In 21st Century language, Yo (Yoshiko) Maeda, is simply awesome. Born in Terminal Island, then a major Japanese settlement, she had to move with her family to Layton, Utah when WWII exploded. That helped them escape the indignities of “relocation.” After graduating from high school, Yo came to live in Los Angeles, where she began working as proof reader at a type setting company.

In 1959, Yo married and moved to Azusa; there the couple adopted two boys, Keith and Michael “who were always a lot of fun.” With two boys in the family, there was no way to escape involvement as Little League Mother. Both boys graduated from college, as professionals. Michael still teaches school at Azusa.

Yo’s involvement with the ESGVJCC began shortly after she moved to Azusa. She became a fund raiser for “Casino Nights,” organizer for other center events, and “Newsette” helper. After working, for Avon for 15 years, she decided to retire, in 1999. That’s when she joined the “Leisure Club.” Many of the Club’s bazaars have included items “recruited” by Yo.

When the Building Campaign for the new Social Hall started, Yo set herself to solicit, as if she were running the Campaign herself. When visiting a friend, if she sees something valuable that is just gathering dust, and for which her friends or their children won’t care, she will ask the person to consider donating it to the Center. Her most recent catches include an antique Chinese carved table and a gorgeous and expensive stoneware vase with a finish resembling celadon. You can be sure that more may be coming. Yo our deepest gratitude for all your efforts. You are a shining example for all of us.

Yo Maeda with two adopted sons: Keith (right) and Michael

A New Life for Family Heirlooms

How often have your eyes gone through the beautiful treasures accumulated in your home through the years? Your heart shrinks when the kids suggest that you better get rid of them, since they don’t want them in their own homes. Then you ask yourself: “What is going to happen to these precious items when I no longer can take care of them?” Many of us have asked that question often. Here you are with your hands full of unwanted beauty, which may only inflate your testamentary inventory with their greatly appreciated value. Your next question is: “Are these assets scheduled to end their beautiful lives at a cheap second hand outlet?”

The IRS’ regulations regarding “Gifts of Tangible Personal Property,” have helped many wise people who feel “brick rich and money poor” preserve the value of their precious objects by allowing them to donate them to their favorite institution. Often in this type of gifts, the primary consideration is the donor’s generosity, since the government’s regulations vary on when the appreciated value of an object may be deducted totally, or partially.

When properly researched, antiques such as ukiyo-e, ningyo, porcelain, fine stoneware, netsuke and lacquer ware, may prove to have increased enormously in value from the date of their acquisition. If provenance can also be proven—who made them, and how they came into the hands of the owner, their values often rise still higher. PBS’ “Antiques Show on the Road” offers frequent examples of such surprises. Of course, many museums have benefited from donors of appreciated art objects.

The “Assistance League of Southern California,” which serves the low-income residents of the Hollywood community, offers one of the best examples of how smaller institutions may benefit from such gifts. The League’s gift shop is loaded with “chinoiserie” Japanese, and other antiques donated by its supporters. It is the place in Hollywood where many connoisseurs get excellent bargains. (Take a peek at the shop at

In other cases, such as the Little Tokyo Library, donors part with their treasures to help the open or silent auctions of institutions like our own.

So, when you know the kids will not go for your ailing treasures, think how those beautiful and valuable objects can help your Japanese Community Center. Rather than just discarding them for the “White Elephant” piles, give them a careful going-over to remove the accumulated dust; see if you can find a little about their history, and contribute them to your Center. (In the case of old ningyo, please don’t try to clean the gofun, as you may damage it forever.) Moreover, and equally important, they may be rescued from oblivion by a knowing collector who will provide a comfortable place for them at their homes. As in all cases of major giving, PLEASE CONSULT WITH YOUR ATTORNEY OR YOUR TAX EXPERT about your benefits of giving art objects to charitable institutions.

* This article was originally published in the East San Gabriel Valley’s Japanese Community Center’s “Newsette”.

© 2008 Edward Moreno

Azusa california community community center donations ESGVJCC southern california Yo Maeda