On Aug. 12, the Village of Kaslo officially dedicated Higashi Way, in honour of the late Buck and Aya Higashi. The following is the text of Mayor Suzan Hewat’s speech:
Gerald and Ayako Higashi were always known to us as Buck and Aya. They were Japanese Canadians who were moved from the coast in 1942 and interned in the Interior communities. Aya’s family was in Kaslo and Buck’s in the Slocan Valley.
Aya Atagi was born in Campbell River and grew up on Quadra Island. She attended high school in Vancouver. She had hoped to attend University and study medicine, however that was not to be. When the family arrived in Kaslo, it was soon obvious that the Japanese school needed teachers and Aya, with others who had completed high school, took on that role both in Kaslo and later in Slocan.
She later attended normal school and obtained her BC teacher certificate. In 1949 about the time when the internment was over, she met Buck and they were married that year. Since they were now free to return to the coast, they spent several years touring in Vancouver and the islands to find the perfect spot to settle. Each time they returned to Kaslo they were welcomed “with open arms and such true friendship” that they eventually decided that Kaslo was that spot where they felt truly at home.
Aya never had children of her own and considered her students to be her children. She was a beloved teacher and always interested and proud of what became of her former students and they in turn invited her to their weddings and special events. She retired in 1984 after more than 40 years of teaching.
She and Buck were active in the community where they enjoyed golf, curling, square dancing and many other social activities. They also loved to travel especially in their RV. They travelled across Canada about 30 times.
They were involved in many community activities. Aya had a great sense of service to her community. She was an ambassador for Kaslo and was a champion for preserving and restoring its heritage buildings. She was an active member of St. Andrew’s United Church and the Victorian Hospital of Kaslo Auxiliary.
It seems fitting that Aya and Buck who gave so much to our community despite many adversities should be honoured by the naming of this street Higashi Way.