Her own relatives survived concentration camps for Japanese Americans. On Wednesday, she showed up to fight for another survivor.
This time, the alleged victim is an elderly woman whose lawyers claim was swindled out of thousands of dollars in a Lincoln Park retirement home.
“We were put in these camps even though I had seven uncles who served in the u.s. armed forces,” said concentration camp survivor Ross Harano.
When Harano was one month old, the U.S. government uprooted his family from California to Arkansas into the Jerome Internment Camp for Japanese Americans. On Wednesday, Harano joined other Japanese Americans in support of another concentration camp survivor, Grace Watanabe.
“We don't know, this might just be the tip of the iceberg, in terms of other people who face similar situations,” Harano said.
Cook County's Public Guardian claims that five employees of Symphony Residences, a retirement home in Lincoln Park, stole Watanabe's life savings, taking advantage of her dementia. Watanabe was not in court, but other Japanese Americans packed the courtroom.
“It's reminiscent of a victimization that occurred toward Grace many, many years ago during World War II when she was interned,” said Bill Yoshino of the Japanese American Citizens’ League.
“It's a shocking betrayal of trust and theft. It's widespread by numerous people who were hired to care for her,” said Watanabe’s attorney, Steve Levin.
When the public guardian filed its lawsuit three months ago, Watanabe's losses were put at about $600,000. Now, that figure is up to more than $800,000.
A spokesman for Symphony Residences says the five employees were let go and their actions were abhorrent. One of them, a hairdresser, says she thought she received $15,000 out of friendship and has given it back.
“Once she became aware that some of these things were going on and this woman had been taken advantage of, she just voluntarily gave the money back,” said the employee’s attorney Michael Malatesta.