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Strawberry Refuge

Strawberry Refuge

Friends –

This painting was going by the name of 'Strawberry Mansion'. But after a bit more research and reflection I decided that it would be more appropriate to name it 'Strawberry Refuge'.

The edifice is one that I have known -- and been fascinated by -- for decades. Located just off Highway 1, nestled among strawberry fields, near the town of Watsonville, it has been symbolic of precious times when our family took refuge at the beach. It is so iconic that I've always wanted to know more, but it took up to the present time to investigate.

What I found is that there are many fascinating stories about this home – known as the Redman-Hirahara mansion. But I will share only two with you here.

One of those stories is that the Victorian style home was built for James Redman who sold the home with the ultimate buyer being 16-year-old Fumio Hirahara. In 1940, this refuge became his home for a mere $10.00. The Hirahara family developed valuable friendships with neighbors in their community and this became so important.

Because of Pearl Harbor and WWII-era racial profiling (sound familiar?) the Hirahara family was forced out of their home and sent to a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Arkansas. Gratefully, friends of the family cared for the house and made sure that the title stayed in the Hirahara name. When they were able to return in 1945, the family expanded the home and barn and accommodated other returning Japanese that were not so lucky to still have a place to return to. It became for them all a real refuge.

The other story I have for you is really just a referral to another story. I presume that author Naomi Hirahara is related to the family that lived here because of her surname and also the fact that this same home is integral to her mystery story. I am reading "Strawberry Yellow" right now and am excited to learn more about this wonderful refuge.

The home was recently purchased by an agriculture company. It may be restored, or it may be torn down to accommodate new townhouses (based on the latest information I could find). Which would you prefer?

"Strawberry Refuge" is a 14x18" oil painting – available as a thank you for your donation to a worthwhile non-profit.

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