Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, September 29, 2012

MVNews this week:  Page 8



 Mountain Views News Saturday, September 29, 2012 



Sierra Madre School’s Garden of Goodwill 

Offers Hope Amid Rapidly Changing World


Photos and Story By Terry Miller

Reprinted by permission Beacon Media, Inc.


As Sierra Madre School celebrates the 81st Anniversary of the Japanese 
Goodwill Garden at Sierra Madre Elementary School, a reunion of sorts, 
was held Saturday at the school with some of the key individuals who made 
the Garden of Goodwill what it is today, and help keep it that way. A dutiful 
location of peace, solitude and refection.

 Issei fathers of the two dozen Japanese-American children who attended 
the school in the 1920’s had built a small garden at the elementary school as 
a gesture of good will to celebrate the completion of a new school building 
in 1930. Then, it had a very small fish pond, a bridge, a bonsai pine tree as 
well as a stone lantern., according to an article published in The LA Times 
in the early 1990’s.

 The rediscovery of the Japanese garden (circa 1993-94) and how the students 
got into restoring the lost treasure that was destroyed as a result of 
bigotry and hatred of Japanese Americans during the post Pearl Harbor 
days, was brought to life through teacher Helen Pontarelli who hopes the 
garden will continue to be an unexpected, emergent curriculum at the 

 While the stories vary on the amount of vandalism and the conjecture 
about anti-Japanese sentiment at that point in history, the fact remains that 
it was damaged and left unattended for many years after the war.

 Enter Helen Obizowa, a former student at the school and resident of Sierra 
Madre, who decided it would be a good idea to resurrect the garden 
in 1992. Obizowa, now 92, is credited for the original concept and then 
approached Watanabe with her idea. Watanabe granted her wish without 
a moment’s hesitation.

 Linda Sandoval and lots of other parent/teacher volunteers helped raise 
for the garden’s upkeep. And of course, her daughter Natalie was one of the 
first students to get the project rolling.

 After posing for a few pictures, we sat down for a chat and a wonderful 
history lesson. Becky Bickel, Katherine Bishop, Esther Salinas ( principal), 
Helen Pontarelli, Ty Gaffney ( former principal ), Arturo Garcia who is 
Lew Watanabe’s right hand man on Watanabe’s projects, Linda Sandoval 
and daughter Natalie along with Lew Watanabe all had something unique 
to offer on Saturday.

 The Garden of Goodwill would be not complete without the mild mannered 
and modest Lew Watanabe. Watanabe is one of those rare individuals 
who not only has volunteered his time, money and expertise in 
restoring and expanding the garden but he has helped garner community 
interest and keep it. Watanabe along with a little help from his friends in 
Sierra Madre and community support over the years but has been instrumental 
in promoting what he believes was “ordained by God.” Watanabe 
said Saturday that he truly believes this project would never have happened 
“had it not been for the Lord.”

 The original Japanese garden built in 1931, was the effort of the parents of 
Japanese American students at the school. The carefully constructed and 
peaceful garden was then vandalized and completely destroyed by those 
who over-reacted to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

 The sixth grade class of 1995 read about this part of Sierra Madre’s history 
and discovered an article in the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 1994) documenting 
the history of what was once a garden at their school, according to 
Natalie Sandoval who was s student in Helen Pontarelli’s class then. Upon 
reading the article, Natalie and the students of Sierra Madre School decided 
to restore it, undertook a massive fund-raising and labor effort to 
do just that.

 The students held car washes, bake sales, wrote letters, and sold origami 
cranes among other things to fund the reconstruction. They also did the 
physical labor, digging the bridge out of the mud and excavated the garden.

 Watanabe became a central figure for the ambitious project and as a landscape 
gardener, he designed the new garden and led the reconstruction.

 Through sales and donations, students were able to raise enough money 
to rebuild the garden. On Sunday, February 4, 1995, the Japanese Garden 
was officially dedicated. The ceremony included 17 members of the class 
of 1931 and their teacher. The dedication ceremony included Taiko drumming, 
dancing, and a karate demonstrations.

 The garden was officially named – Garden of Goodwill.

 Kids and parents put together a massive volunteer effort to keep the garden 
clean and on Veterans Day last year and studied in depth why happened 
to Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor – also what 
became of many of those who were sent to internment camps as a direct 
result of the military action.

 Internment by the United States government in 1942 of about 110,000 
Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast of the 
United States to camps called “War Relocation Centers,” in the wake of Imperial 
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The internment of Japanese Americans 
was applied unequally throughout the United States. Japanese Americans 
who lived on the West Coast of the United States were all interned, 
while in Hawaii, where more than 150,000 Japanese Americans composed 
over one-third of the territory’s population, 1,200 to 1,800 Japanese Americans 
were interned. Of those interned, 62% were American citizens.

 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt(FDR) authorized the internment 
with Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942, which allowed local 
military commanders to designate “military areas” as “exclusion zones,” 
from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” This power was used to 
declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire 
Pacific coast, including all of California and most of Oregon and Washington, 
except for those in internment camps. In 1988, Congress passed 
and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the 
internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation said that government 
actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure 
of political leadership”. The U.S. government eventually disbursed more 
than $1.6 billion in reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned 
and their heirs.

 The lesson learned is that of tolerance and how prejudice can overwhelm 
a nation. The similarity of the anti-Muslim racism and now even more 
recently the growing anti-U.S. sentiment over a YouTube video that cost 
Ambassador J. Christopher Steven’s life, is not lost on these young minds.

 Teachers such as Helen Pontarelli are helping the students realize that tolerance 
of our differences is critical and compromise is the only solution to 
such matters.

 The Upper Campus Service Club ( which tends to the gardens) was started 
about six years ago by a parent who wanted the new middle school (still 
under construction) to have some of the same opportunities as established 
middle schools in the Pasadena Unified School district – the current project 
of the service club is the care and maintenance one of Sierra Madre’s 
true historic monuments.

 What the Garden of Goodwill needs now is someone to backwash the 
pond once a week and ensure the pump and filters are working properly. 
Watanabe and Garcia will train whomever is willing to make a commitment 
to the Garden of Goodwill. Backwashing is critical to prevent algae 
growth and keep the Koi happy and heathy,

There is one additional problem the Garden of Goodwill faces periodically, 
a Blue Herron (Ardea herodias) who apparently goes fighting from pond 
to pond in the Sierra Madre area. The Herron makes a visit about once a 
week but luckily the Koi are too large now for the Herron to eat. “I hate 
that Herron,” said one of the members of the group. “ It was eating all our 
young Koi.”

 If you can help financially or with some time to help maintain the pond 
with backwashing in the Garden of Goodwill, please call Esther Salinas, 
Principal of Sierra Madre Elementary School at Lower Campus – 141 
West Highland Avenue Sierra Madre. Phone: (626) 396-5890 – Fax: (626) 

Alverno High School

200 N. Michillinda Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024

(626) 355-3463 Head of School: Ann M. Gillick 

E-mail address:

Arcadia High School

180 Campus Drive Arcadia, CA 91007

Phone: (626) 821-8370, Principal: David L. Vannasdall

Arroyo Pacific Academy

41 W. Santa Clara St. Arcadia, Ca, 

(626) 294-0661 Principal: Phil Clarke

E-mail address:

Barnhart School

240 W. Colorado Blvd Arcadia, Ca. 91007

(626) 446-5588 Head of School: Joanne Testa Cross

Kindergarten - 8th grade


Bethany Christian School

93 N. Baldwin Ave. Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024

(626) 355-3527 Principal: James Lugenbuehl

E-mail address:

Foothill Oaks Academy

822 Bradbourne Ave., Duarte, CA 91010

(626) 301-9809

The Gooden School

192 N. Baldwin Ave. Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024

(626) 355-2410 Head of School: Patty Patano


High Point Academy

1720 Kinneloa Canyon Road

Pasadena, Ca. 91107 626-798-8989


LaSalle High School

3880 E. Sierra Madre Blvd. Pasadena, Ca. 

(626) 351-8951 


Monrovia High School

325 East Huntington Drive, Monrovia, CA 91016 

(626) 471-2000, 


Norma Coombs Alternative School

2600 Paloma St. Pasadena, Ca. 91107

(626) 798-0759 Principal: Dr. Vanessa Watkins 

E-mail address:

Odyssey Charter School

725 W. Altadena Dr. Altadena, Ca. 91001

(626) 229-0993 Head of School: Lauren O’Neill


Pasadena High School

2925 E. Sierra Madre Blvd. Pasadena, Ca. 

(626) 798-8901 Principal: Dr. Derick Evans


Pasadena Unified School District

351 S. Hudson Ave. Pasadena, Ca. 91109

(626) 795-6981 website:

St. Rita Catholic School

322 N. Baldwin Ave. Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024

(626) 355-9028 website:

Sierra Madre Elementary School

141 W. Highland Ave, Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024

(626) 355-1428 Principal: Gayle Bluemel


Sierra Madre Middle School 

160 N. Canon Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024

(626) 836-2947 Principal: Gayle Bluemel

Contact person: Garrett Newsom, Asst. Principal

E-mail address:

Walden School

74 S San Gabriel Blvd

Pasadena, CA 91107 (626) 792-6166

Weizmann Day School

1434 N. Altadena Dr. Pasadena, Ca. 91107

(626) 797-0204

Lisa Feldman: Head of School

Wilson Middle School

300 S. Madre St. Pasadena, Ca. 91107

(626) 449-7390 Principal: Ruth Esseln

E-mail address:

Pasadena Unified School District

351 S. Hudson Ave., Pasadena, Ca. 91109

(626) 795-6981 Website:

THE REEL DEAL: by Ben Show

Movie Reviews Especially for Teens & ‘Tweens


 For me, ‘House at the End of the Street’ was 
not as scary as I had expected. That isn’t to 
say the movie wasn’t bad; it was a wonderful 
thriller. Nothing felt like it was cliche 
(except for the crazy little girl in a white 
nightgown). I liked this movie very much.

 Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her divorced 
mother (Elisabeth Shue) just move into a 
new house in a rich neighborhood in the 
middle of the woods. The forest is beautiful, 
the people are stuck up, and everything 
seems to be going perfectly. Until Elissa 
meets the boy, Ryan (Max Thieriot), in the 
house at the end of the street. His parents 
were killed by his sister and she disappeared. 
Now, he lives alone, trying to renovate the 
property so he can sell it. But as Elissa, her 
mother, and the entire town learn, there is 
more to him than anyone knows.

 I went in with high expectations and 
thinking I knew exactly what would 
happen. I was not disappointed. This movie 
has you hooked from the very beginning, 
up until the sad ending. With an above 
average screenplay (David Loucka), good 
directing (Mark Tonderai), and actors that 
fit their parts, this movie works very well, 
and nothing is what it seems at the house at 
the end of the street.