By Phyllis Hayashibara, member of the VJAMM Committee, phyllishayashibara@gmail.com
The Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument Committee takes great pleasure in announcing that David Williams, founder and owner of Williams Monument Company in Arvin, California, will supply the solid black granite VJAMM obelisk. David will be ordering the black granite from his supplier in India, known for the highest quality and most absolute black granite available in the world, and will be engraving the VJAMM obelisk at his factory in Arvin. Committee members Phyllis Hayashibara, Alice Stek, and Suzanne Thompson, drove from Venice to Arvin on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 to hand-deliver a deposit check that represents 60% of the total cost of the obelisk, ceramic photo and all engraving included.

A member of the VJAMM Committee, Suzanne Thompson, found the Williams Monument Company online as she searched “granite obelisks” and found an image of a shiny black obelisk that David had engraved for South High School in 2007. Two other members of the Committee, Phyllis Hayashibara and Emily Winters, traveled to Arvin in 2013 to meet David after he expressed interest in the VJAMM project. David took them on a tour of civic monuments in nearby Bakersfield, showing that granite slabs attached to concrete very soon lose their adhesion and must be repaired within a few years after installation. David also showed them examples of uneven engraving, where some letters were deeply etched into the granite, while others where very shallowly etched on the very same monument, something he promised would never occur in his own work. The VJAMM Committee took his advice, which concurred with the advice of other monument makers interviewed, and decided to order a solid granite obelisk.

David also showed some of his own civic work of very high standards, including the Kern Veterans Memorial, for which he completed the engraving of veterans’ names on panels; South High School’s 50th Anniversary Honor Plaza which included the black granite obelisk; and North High School’s large gray granite sign in front of its administration building. He also showed the VJAMM Committee members around his factory, where he does the engraving of granite tombstones, flat grave markers, and commemorative benches.

David Williams founded the Williams Monument Company in 1997, after his wife, Christie, suggested he follow in the footsteps of his father, who worked as an artist and engraver on memorials.

Christie recognized that David’s artistic ability, creativity, and compassion would provide people with higher quality work and better customer service than is typically found in the memorial industry. In

2005, David earned the designation of CM, Certified Memorialist. He has also joined the ranks of Monument Builders of North America, which promises of its members “ethical, honest business practices from someone who is committed to his industry and art.”
Christie Williams works as the Human Resources Officer and Chief Financial Officer for the Kern County Autism Center, a non-profit business whose mission is to provide the very best day care and living facilities for autistic adults in the Bakersfield area. Christie had grown up with a cousin who had been diagnosed as autistic, and as a teen, had come to know several families with autistic children. In fulfillment of what turned out to be her life’s passion, Christie has worked with KCAC since 1991.

The Williams have three children, Jacob now 23 years old, Emily now 20, and Hannah now 8. The family adopted Hannah from China in response to Christie’s dream of rescuing an orphan girl from a country that did not afford the same opportunities for its females as males. In the course of their research, they discovered that they could also help with a “special needs” adoption. Rejected in China for having been born with a cleft lip and palate, Hannah became the third Williams’ child, whose surgery successfully corrected her “special needs.”

David Williams’ interest in commemorating history that should never be forgotten led him to the Veterans’ Memorial in Bakersfield; to a commemorative wall for the Dust Bowl Historical Foundation located in Weedpatch, California, which also featuries original structures from the last remaining Depression-era Migrant Camp in Arvin; and to the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker in Venice, California. “I believe that society must hold onto the lessons of historical events in order to not repeat them. So many fine men, women, and children were forced out of their homes unjustly [during the Japanese American internment]. I am honored to be a part of this noble project,” wrote David Williams in an email interview.

The VJAMM Committee recently changed its name from the Memorial Marker Committee to the Memorial MONUMENT Committee, in recognition of the monumental size of the 9 foot 6 inch tall obelisk with a 3 foot by 3 foot base. The VJAMM will be installed on the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln Boulevards, to commemorate the forced removal of some 1,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, about two-thirds U. S. citizens, from Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu. They lined up at that intersection with only what they could carry, for bus transport to what would become the American concentration camp in Manzanar, administered by the War Relocation Authority. Many would be incarcerated for more than three years at Manzanar, behind barbed wire and watched by armed military guards.

Estimated expenses for the transport, foundation, and installation of the VJAMM on the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln Boulevards exceed the VJAMM Committee’s previously approved budget. The Committee continues to raise funds for those expenses as well as for future maintenance of the VJAMM. The fifth annual VJAMM fundraiser at Hama Sushi in Venice will take place on Wednesday, April 27, 2016. Proprietor Esther Chaing will donate 100% of bento lunch profits and 10% of all dinner sales to the VJAMM Committee. Over the past four years, Esther has donated over $10,000.00 to the VJAMM Committee, for which the VJAMM expresses great appreciation. “Esther Chaing, Hama Sushi Restaurant, Venice, California” will be permanently engraved on the VJAMM along with eight other major donors, in gratitude for their support.

The VJAMM Committee invites supporters to pre-order bento FOR $20 each, so Hama Sushi will know how many bento to prepare for lunch. Please contact Phyllis Hayashibara with your bento lunch order at 310-390-1576 or email her at phyllishayashibara@gmail.com. Please contact Hama Sushi at 310-396-8783 for dinner reservations.

Today, more than ever, we need to heed the message of the VJAMM, as will be engraved as the final paragraph of text: