Born in 1922 to an Issei (1st generation) couple from Japan, May Daty grew up in Seattle. Following high school, she took a job as a clerk with the Seattle School District. The bombing of Pearl Harbor had America under heightened paranoia, and in 1942, May was forced to resign because of the parental outcry of anti-Japanese sentiment.
Shortly after, Roosevelt’s Presidential Executive Order 9066 forced people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast into incarceration camps. May, her siblings and mother were sent to Minidoka in southern Idaho. The incarceration was demining, shameful and life altering. She and her family lived in barracks behind barbed wire and guarded by armed soldiers.
Three years later, Japanese Americans were allowed to leave and move back to the West Coast. May married her boyfriend Tom Namba and the couple had five boys. Devoted to her family, May hosted parties after football games in response to cross-school fights and even started a college scholarship at her children’s high school. Her home became an unofficial safe-haven for many children.
May became a member of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), a civil rights organization, and has served in numerous organizations, creating events such as the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Minidoka Pilgrimage.
In 2001, after 9/11, May became part of a sub-committee that created multilingual programing to help immigrants understand the Bill of Rights and instruction on how to interact with FBI agents. May’s experiences of race-based incarceration allowed her a special vantage point for helping and mentoring others.
On April 5, 2019, May passed away at the age of 96. Her legacy still continues.