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Beach Valentines: love never forgotten

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This is the first in a series of love stories to be published through Valentine’s Day.

Art and Sally at Mt. Hermon. Photos courtesy Tsuneishi family

Art and Sally at Mt. Hermon. Photos courtesy Tsuneishi family

by Tori MacLennan

Before Art and Sally Tsuneishi met, they, along with their families, were taken to internment camps during World War II. Art was taken from his home in California to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, while Sally was taken from the small village of Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii to Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas.

Art was working in the camp and standing for many hours a day, and he began to suffer pain in his legs. A neurosurgeon soon discovered the pain was being caused by a spinal tumor that required surgery. Although the tumor was successfully removed, the surgery left him a paraplegic. He was then sent to Poston, Arizona, to recuperate. During Art’s recovery in the camp, he became a Christian.

After the war, Sally returned to Hawaii to help settle her family. She worked as a nurses’ aide on the island of Oahu for a year before deciding to move to the mainland to continue her education. She moved to Los Angeles where her reverend, Paul Nagano, had relocated from the church she attended.

At Evergreen Baptist Church, Art and Sally met. Art was going to school and studying to be a minister. He was instantly attracted to Sally. Sally pointed out that she was the talkative one while Art was quieter, but very witty. Although Art used canes to get around, he would often use Sally’s shoulder to rest on.

Tsuneishi 1948

Art and Sally Tsuneishi in 1948

“He liked being close to me,” Sally said in her Torrance apartment, just over the Redondo Beach border, surrounded by numerous wall photos of her husband and their family.

Art would sometimes sleep at church so he could be close to where she worked at the local hospital. He would walk several blocks from church to her dorm room just to see her. This was a long walk for him. Art was a student, and money was tight, so their dates were often at bible study.

When Art borrowed his brother’s car to take Sally out for chicken dinner at Knott’s Berry Farm, she thought this was quite the occasion. He presented her with fresh cut flowers from his mother’s garden, and smiled the whole time. Sally recalled thinking, “Gee, this guy sure smiles a lot.”

When Art got down on one knee and slipped a ring on her finger, she couldn’t wait to get back to her dorm because it was so dark and she was so excited to see her ring. They were married on June 12, 1948. Art and Sally had eight children. Art did indeed become a Reverend.

His children remember numerous pastors coming together at the house to discuss the early stages of the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society and the OMS Holiness Churches. Art served as a pastor and longtime board member for the churches.

Although Sally and Art had endured many tragedies, there was no room for complaining. Art had remained true to his humble and gentle nature. The compassion, kindness and mutual respect they had for each other only strengthened their relationship and cemented their faith in God.

When Alzheimer’s robbed Art of his memories, the one person he never forgot was Sally. No matter how harsh the disease became, she was the one memory he never parted with. As Art was in and out of consciousness, he would say her name. An intimate moment in Art’s last days, Sally told him that his body had become tired and that it was okay to go to heaven and see parents that are surly waiting for him. Art’s heart ached at the thought of leaving his Sally.

He told her he wanted to stay to take care of her. But his body was tiring. She put on a brave face for him, knowing this was what he needed: knowing she would be taken care of. Their children assured him that they would take care of her. Sally’s heart broke at the thought of losing her beloved husband of 61 years. She stayed by his side until the very end. He was 89. Art was born on February 14, 1920.

Family photo taken in 2009

Family photo taken in 2009