What kind of friend wakes you up with a knock on the bedroom window at 4:30 in the morning telling you to “Get up! You’re going to miss the morning!” It had better be a good friend!
Tak Fudenna was a farmer, and as farmers get up early, he went several times a week to the home of his good friend Dr. Advice to share what he loved; the fresh morning air, the solitude of early morning, the beauty of a healthy field of cauliflower waiting to be harvested.
It became the habit of the two men to go to the “Alvarado Hilton” for a quick breakfast at Mary’s before “checking” the fields, and before the workday began for both. I don’t remember what the actual name of the “Hilton” was, but it was in the small town of Alvarado, and had once years ago been a small bank.
Like thousands of small farming communities throughout the country, Alvarado was a suburb of a larger nearby town which kept growing. While the rest of the town of Alvarado slumbered away for lack of business, the “Hilton” watched its few small businesses fold and buildings stand empty.
At some point in time the bank became a very casual eating place presided over by a woman who dished out hearty breakfasts to hungry farmers needing a big meal and a few cups of coffee to jump-start their day.
Tak was a practical joker, and one soon learned not to take his word that something was “not very hot”. After tasting it himself, he would offer a spoonful to Dr. Advice, who soon found out it was tabasco sauce straight out of the bottle! The Danes were never used to sprinkling tabasco on their pastry.
The three Fudenna brothers were all second generation Japanese-Americans who had the largest cauliflower farm in Fremont. When WW2 broke out, all Japanese in America, by order of Executive Order 9066, were interned in military-type “relocation” camps throughout the country for the duration of the war. Tak and his mother were sent to Topaz Lake, Utah and their farms as well as most other Japanese-American farmers, were confiscated.
When he was eighteen, as did thousands of other boys in America, Tak received a draft notice saying he was now in the army as a member of the all Japanese-American 442 regiment, and was sent to North Africa. The battalion had the most casualties of any U.S. battalion and went on to fight in Italy where Tak received the bronze star.
When asked about his internment camp experience, he was fond of saying “When it’s over, it’s over. Just plow it under.
In time, Tak married and raised a family of six children, whose three oldest boys became outstanding athletes in the local high school before going on to take over the family farms. Tak told them that someday there would be no more farms in Fremont, so the three sons went to Salinas and Yuma to farm lettuce and cauliflower.
The farmland that they held in Fremont has now been turned into apartments and small businesses.
Tak and his wife, Sachi, had never missed a game and were big supporters of the high school sports program. After all his boys graduated from school, Tak was musing what he could leave the school and the city to benefit the youth program. What he settled on was a football stadium, that would have a great track, lights, good bleachers, restrooms and food stands.
Together he and a group of his friends built the Tak Fudenna stadium at Washington High School but to be used by all the high schools in Fremont. When people found what he was planning, donations of material and manpower poured in to help this cheerful, loveable man achieve the legacy he left to our city.
Tak was killed in a road accident at the age of 51. He was truly a common, Uncommon man.
14 thoughts on “AN UNCOMMON MAN”
I remember Takeo Fudenna as a former WWII hero, a man of the soil, and a proud father. He was short and squat with tremendously powerful legs. His face was creased and brown from too much sun. He liked to fish and make jokes.
The day he died from such a freak accident was one of the saddest days in our house.
My father never fully recovered from Tak’s death. I believe Dad had to identify the body from his dental records.
When I taught all those years and my students would tell me that they were going to Tak (the stadium), I always asked them if they knew why the stadium was called Tak. Of course, they did not know the answer, creating a perfect opportunity to tell them about our Japanese friend, Takeo Fudenna.
There were a couple of uncommon guys in our lives, Cheri; Hughie and Tak. There were a few tears in our family too. They aren’t forgotten. A beautiful memory Cheri.
Great portrait of an extraordinary man, Kayti. Fills me with courage and inspiration for the day. Thank you xx
Thanks Narelle. He was our “Japanese family!”
Yes, he truly was an uncommon friend. Thanks Narelle.
Hi Aunt Kayti,
This is such a lovely piece…while I did not know Tak – this makes me feel as though I did. We are leaving tomorrow for our annual boat in camping trip, but in a week when I am back we Have to get together for lunch or dinner Now that I am finished with school -I just a check in & out tomorrow – we can see you.
Love you and “Dr Advice” so much.
Thank you dear favorite niece!Â Tak was a guy.Â we traveled together a few times and I remember someone critisizing another male friend and I said “What’s wrong with Tak?Â Nothing!!”Â Â Have a good vacation and we’ll get together afterword.
… “When itâ€™s over, itâ€™s over. Just plow it under.”…
Words I shall remember.
Many times when his brother-in-law would sit in the field with his head in his hands when a crop didn’t come in, Tak would just say “Well, we lost it.Â Just plow it under.”Â Good words.
I absolutely love reading all your stuff and looking at the pictures of artwork, sculptings and things of interest like the Executive Order in this segment.
Thanks Barry! Glad you enjoyed the story. He was a great guy and another one we miss .
A sad ending to a really inspiring story. Tak really was a one of a kind and I would say a great man at that. I like his dismissal of bad things in life. “When it’s done, it’s done. Then plow it under.”
We could all do well to follow his words. My outlook is sort of similiar but I don’t always follow my own words. “When it’s over, it’s over. Then wad it up and throw it in a trash can.”
What a wonderful tribute story. It’s so inspiring to hear about people like Tak who have something to contribute, something solid to leave behind. Very touching. Very nice piece.
I remember the day I heard that “Mr. Fudenna had been hit by a car. Though fairly young, I remember feeling very sad. The Fudenna family were one of those well known families in Fremont. When people spoke of any of them, mother, father, kids, the words were of praise and kindness. I remember when the stadium was under construction and I went with my dad to help out. We laid the rolls of turf along the 50 yard line. There are life moments that we forget, and those we remember as clear as glass. I remember the stadium event like it was yesterday, and I was so proud that I got a chance to do something for the Fudenna family. Thanks Aunt Kayti for telling a little about Tak’s life…I especially like the knocking on the window at 4:30am!