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A Matter of Conscience

Rich Kirchner (We Will Come Back For You, March) is a high school classmate, a fraternity brother and close friend to this day. He made a photo book of his journey and shared his story with my wife Gayle and me. The book and your wonderful article not only show his artistic talent but his ability to tell a compelling story. One can see in the article what a great person of character Rich is. He and I received about the same welcome home from Vietnam as the two people he was looking for. Glad things are different today.


Jack’s Generosity

In 1948, Jack MacDonald (Of Generous Spirit, March) lived just a couple doors down from our home in Edmonds. Every morning, he would walk past our house to catch the bus to his work at the Veterans Administration in Seattle and back in the evening after work. Fifteen years later, in 1963, I was commuting to Seattle to my work with Reynolds Metals. I passed Jack on his way to the bus stop one morning and asked if he would like a ride. I drove a 1960 Volkswagen, and space was at a minimum. When Jack joined the car pool, I now had four people; a lawyer, a jeweler, a marine insurance broker and an aluminum salesman. Jack’s tenure with the V.A., I believe, was prompted by his family’s sacrifice and a determination that veterans would always have legal representation available to them. Jack never spoke of it, but his mother confided in me that Jack and his brother were in the army in the Philippines when the Japanese forced the surrender and the Bataan Death March began. Jack and his brother were both in that march, though his brother did not survive. When Jack returned home, he weighed 90 pounds. Jack MacDonald was a modest, kind and caring man whose generosity to the University of Washington deserved more attention and therefore I share this with you.


Extreme Measures

There were numerous inaccurate assertions made about America’s World War II internment of Japanese-Americans (Silence is a Coping Mechanism, March), so I offer some information from Victory at Sea by James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi (1995, Quill). In February of 1942, the west coast of the United States was declared by presidential order an exclusion zone. This applied only to the west coast states due to the then-prevalent fear of an imminent Japanese invasion of the U.S. Rather than to try to separate loyal from disloyal Japanese-Americans, all persons of Japanese ancestry were removed from the exclusion zone. By taking the questionable expedient of removing all Japanese-Americans from the west coast, loyal and disloyal, the government was not simply being racist. What caused the panic that led to the Japanese-American roundup was Japan’s status as the dominant naval power in the Pacific. In the Philippines, many resident Japanese collaborated with the invading Japanese army. This incident, as well as the military emergency (Japanese submarines were surfacing to shell the California, Oregon and Vancouver Island coastlines) caused the government to take extreme measures. Over the years, a popular myth has developed in which an entirely innocent Japanese-American population was tossed into “concentration camps in a fit of racist paranoia.” The truth is a bit more complex. The war was a time of national emergency when our government did things that we, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight from 70 years distance, wish they had not done. Perhaps it could have been handled differently. It wasn’t. Get over it.


The Frith Element

To the list of UW grads and staff who have distinguished themselves as mountaineers (To Climb, March), I would add Frith Maier, ’87, ’98. Some of her adventures defy belief—a largely unsupported crossing of the Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Afghanistan, starting in Pakistan and ending up (being arrested) in Tajikistan. Maier’s pioneering Trekking in Russia and Central Asia: A Traveler’s Guide (The Mountaineers, 1994) became the bible for adventure travel in the USSR, where she also summited many peaks. She organized a climbing exchange between the Mountaineers and the Soviet Alpine Federation and developed REI’s adventure travel program. After tracing the route followed in the 19th century through mountains of the Caucasus by George Kennan (credited as the founder of Russian studies in the U.S.), Maier edited his diaries for her M.A. thesis, which then was published by UW Press. She has gone on to other challenges as co-founder and CEO of a successful software company. When time permits, she still climbs demanding technical routes.


UW vs. TB

Glad to read new information about the tuberculosis bacteria being discovered at UW (Ten From the Labs, June 2013). This disease still kills more than a million people every year and is easily spread by airborne bacteria. With our small world, thanks to air travel, even the most drug-resistant forms of this disease can come to our shores at any time. Therefore, it is smart to treat this disease globally. Kudos once again to UW research for doing their part.


Jewish Lineage

My Sephardic history (The Lost Branch, March) is easily traced to Rhodes, but from where in Spain did my ancestors come? And before then, where? I have just finished the superb book Maimonides by Joel L. Kraemer. Moses Ben Maimon is perhaps the most famous of all Sephardic Jews and one of the most famous Jews in the world. Sephardic Jewry was alive and well many centuries before the 15th and I am most intrigued by its early origins.


Check out Yasmin Levy (, a great singer who includes Ladino influences in her songs. Her father was a well-known musicologist in Israel and a Ladino scholar. The website includes her albums and background information such as newspaper articles, etc.


I have forwarded this story to a listserv I managed, which is devoted to the topic of language policy, i.e., decisions about language that are made by states, countries, cities, religious groups, labor unions—you name it.
I’m glad I could share this with my list, which has more than 400 members at


I admire Devin’s dedication and monumental work. Personally, I have mixed feelings and still have not resolved my internal conflicts. On one hand, it is good that the memory of my forefathers and their achievements be remembered and honored. On the other hand, I cannot forget that Judeo-Spanish and Yiddish are only bastardized versions of the languages of those who persecuted us. Part of me says, “I want to have nothing to do with them,” and another part tells me how childish my attitude is (I am past 86) and that a language exists regardless of who spoke it and where and when it was spoken. But this is my problem. Kudos to my distant cousin, Professor Naar.


Suicide and Shame

I was both incredibly touched and deeply disturbed after reading this article (Hope After Heartache, March). It alarms me to read that many mental health professionals do not know how to counsel suicidal patients. That Jennifer Stuber has been able to channel her grief and sadness over losing her husband to create an organization that is working to make sure that people get the suicide prevention help that they need is nothing short of amazing. Jennifer Stuber is one of my newfound heroes.


I understand the stigma of mental illness. While I have no personal experience with suicide, my mother had a very serious mental illness and I can relate to the shame that is involved. Thank you for taking a stand for change in the system for those who suffer with a mental illness. I would be happy to help in some way. I have a strong belief in what you are doing.


Centenarian Says

I am not a UWAA member, but I greatly appreciate the issues of Columns, which have been sent to me for many, many years. Even at 100 years of age (as of August last year), I still see a familiar name or face now and then. My wife and I are living in an assisted-living facility.