I was a Girl Scout professional from 1984-1988 and I was a Field Exec and the Program Director for our council that no longer exists. The secretary for the Execs and Program was a wonderful woman named Lillian Sugimoto. Everybody loved Lillian. She was a fantastic secretary and was really patient with me when I was learning to be Program person. When one of the Board members donated a computer system to the council. (It was his company’s old one because he was upgrading) we learned to use PCs together. It had dot matrix printers with the endless bolts of paper that you used to have to attach. It had black and orange monitors and came loaded with Wordstar as the word processing program and just about everyone was terrified of using them except us. I loved it because it was easier than the damn typewriter when it came to correction and I was doing the council newsletter “Scoutacular” at the time and we had to cut and paste everything together to publish it so having a wordprocessing program was just heaven. No Whiteout!
Lillian always knew when I needed chocolate and a Reese’s peanut butter cup would appear on my desk when she thought I needed it. We used to work 10 or 12 hour days and it would get really hairy when putting an event together and dealing with some of the volunteers. She was magical and one of the fastest most accurate typists I’ve ever known.
And then one day I found out how Lillian had come to this country and my heart broke.
Lillian had been 16 years old living Japan in 1941 and her parents decided to send her to visit relatives in San Francisco so she could learn English and then come home and maybe teach. She was here when Pearl Harbor happened. She ended up being interned. She was one of the ones sent to the Arcadia Race track that normally has horses while they built the camps. The thought of being 16 years old in a strange country and being locked up simply because you are Japanese still boggles my mind and hurts my heart for her.
She survived the camp, she got married and made me and an endless stream of Girl Scouts and their leaders happy. She told me once that I had to take things as they came and not stress out so much. Wise words accompanied by chocolate. I wish I could have more often than I did. She died last year in her 90s. I hope she was as happy as she made others. I’m going to fold a crane for her today like we used to do together. I used to fold origami frogs that could hop and leave them on her desk to find.
Lillian, I hope you know you were loved and missed by many.
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