Motoko Fujishiro Huthwaite had — by any account — an amazing life.
Born in Boston on August 24, 1927 to Japanese citizens, her father was a prominent dentist and professor at Harvard. As noted on the Monuments Men Foundation website:
“The family was befriended by Langdon Warner, the legendary scholar of Asian art and future Monuments Man in Japan following the end of World War II. The Fujishiro household became the center of the Japanese community in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Japanese students, professors, and scholars from the many universities surrounding Boston would flock to parties expertly hosted by Motoko’s mother.”
She and her mother and brother were forced to relocate to Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor, however, while her father was arrested for espionage and put into an internment camp. He later returned to Tokyo a broken man. Motoko survived the war and became one of 27 women who worked for the Arts and Monuments Commission — popularly known as the Monuments Men. After the war, she reinstated her United States citizenship, lived in both the U.S. and Japan, served as John D. Rockefeller III’s personal secretary on his trips to Japan, and had a rich and rewarding life.
Motoko Fujishiro Huthwaite died of COVID-19, on May 4th. As Robert M. Edsel, Chairman of the Monuments Men Foundation says in his tribute to Motoko,
“It is no small irony that this new war the world is waging against COVID-19 is taking place exactly seventy-five years after the end of the last world war, and that the people who are most susceptible are the heroes whose sacrifices helped build the world and all its freedoms that we enjoy today. To those who, shamefully, say, ‘Well, they were old; they would have died soon anyway,’ I have this response: ‘You have never known, as we have, the mettle and dignity of these aged warriors. Their loss is society’s loss. Their loss is your loss, for they take with them knowledge and virtue our nation, in fact the world, needs now more than ever. They are our nation’s treasures, and we should protect them accordingly.’”
Thank you for your service to the country and the cultural heritage of the world, Motoko Fujishiro Huthwaite. May you rest in peace.
More to come.