Grace Watanabe, who was among the thousands of Japanese Americans forcibly detained in U.S. internment camps during World War II, has passed away at the age of 100.
A warrior of grace:
Watanabe suffered a stroke that resulted in her death at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge on Tuesday, reported the Chicago Sun-Times
- The concentration camp survivor died with a pending lawsuit against Symphony Residences, a nursing home in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.
- Employees of the nursing home allegedly swindled Watanabe out of $750,000 during her stay, according to an earlier report.
- Symphony employees reportedly siphoned Watanabe’s life savings by forging checks and stealing her ATM card, using the money for jewelry and travel, among other things.
- Upon learning about the abuse, Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert moved Watanabe to a different care facility in 2018 and filed a lawsuit against the offending nursing home.
- In 2019, Golbert accused Symphony owners of attempting to delay litigation by refusing to sit for depositions.
- “It’s not clear how much longer she’ll be with us,” Golbert was quoted as saying. “And I think they’re hoping they’ll get off the hook if she dies because as long as she’s alive, they know 100 percent that I’ll be going after them aggressively.”
Her fight continues: The lawsuit, which is set to proceed even after Watanabe’s death, seeks to retrieve the money allegedly stolen from her, with an additional amount for punitive damages, according to Golbert.
- Executives and individual employees from Symphony were included in the lawsuit, which alleges that executives were aware of the theft but failed to report it to authorities
- Watanabe’s chosen beneficiaries Misericordia and Mercy Home for Boys and Girls would take over the case and become administrators of her estate moving forward.
- Chicago’s Japanese community has expressed its support for Watanabe through the years by sending letters and food.
Born in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 1921, Watanabe was held in the Poston internment camp in Arizona from 1942 to 1946. Upon her release, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois in Chicago.