Mearnie Summers Obituary

In Memoriam:

Mearnie Summers

First JGS President
b. 26 January 1927 d. 7 January 2017

Mearnie Summers on shore
Mearnie Summers Obituary

Mearnie was born in 1927 in Vancouver and she grew up in the Kitsilano area. She had many Japanese-Canadians neighbours, schoolmates and friends. As a young teenager, Mearnie remembered a neighbor coming to ask her parents for help when the government decided to remove and detain any and all persons “of the Japanese race” from designated “protected areas.” Her parents were caught up in the views of the times, and to Mearnie’s great regret they did not help. Her friends, neighbours and schoolmates of Japanese ancestry disappeared, and she did not know what had happened to them until she heard Rose Murakami speak at a meeting of the Salt Spring Island Historical Society around 2002. Rose spoke of her first-hand knowledge of the horrors detention, imprisonment, the confiscation of property, and racist measures that prevented her family and many others from returning to the coast until the 1950s. Mearnie was outraged, and she spoke up with a vision of a garden of unity and reconciliation – so that all would learn of this history and none would forget. She was the first president of JGS and she worked on the project for 10 years. She often mused wryly that she was surprised by the effort required – she initially thought she would only have to mention the idea, and that the whole community would leap to bring the garden into being. Mearnie believed deeply in the vision and values of the Japanese Garden Society. Her own experience of oppression and discrimination as a lesbian fed her passion for a just society, and she believed in using the privilege and good fortune life had brought her to “Pass it On.”