Scottsbluff woman, Mickey Hara shares passion of nursing, Japanese culture
SCOTTSBLUFF — During the early 1940s, Japanese immigrants relocated to Nebraska amidst the growth in internment camps across the United States. Within the Japanese culture, the oldest son was the heir to everything the family owned, so the younger siblings had to forge their own paths. Some of the immigrants came from Japan in hopes of earning money to return home and start a life while others sent money home to their families. Other immigrants would settle in the valley and start a family. As the children grew up, some would continue their family businesses in the valley.
Miyeko Hara, 94, also known as Mickey, grew up on a local farm near Henry after her father Jusuke came from Seattle, Washington, to work on the railroad in the 1910s. Her parents came from Fukashima, Japan. Her mother, Sumino was a picture bride. Men would send a photo of themselves to Japan and the woman would choose her suitor. When the woman arrived in America, she held the picture of her husband and the two were married.
Shortly after, he and his wife, Sumino, settled in Henry, where they started to farm. Hara’s generation is known as the Nisei, which in the Japanese culture means the second generation.
Hara was born in a two-room house nestled in the woods of Henry. She grew up alongside six siblings on the farm. From a young age, Hara enjoyed caring for others.
“My mother said that I used to nurse all our cats and dogs,” she said. “I thought maybe I’d like to be a journalist or maybe an author of a book.”
As a high school senior, Hara recalled how the school principal was against World War II, but did not want trouble with the Japanese students.
“The mayor came out and he said, I know we’re supposed to really have some restrictions, so they took all of our short-wave radios, our guns and our ammunition.”
Then as she prepared to graduate from Henry High School in the midst of World War II, she decided to pursue a degree in nursing, which led to a 30-year career in nursing starting at the Mitchell Medical Center.
“When I graduated, it was during the war,” she said. “I graduated in 1942 and when I decided I wanted to be a nurse, some states would not accept me because I was Japanese and they were having a war against Japan.”
Despite receiving a scholarship from the University of Nebraska, her family could not afford to send her there since they had seven children. With the family’s financial situation tight, Hara chose to attend a state school for nursing in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
She completed her nursing courses at the hospital in the cadet nurse corps division of the Army. Dressed in blue pants and a blue shirt, Hara participated in military drills and pursued her dream of becoming a nurse.
While engaging with the community and soldiers stationed at the Fort Carson base in Colorado Springs, Hara said the Japanese nurses were advised to wear their uniforms to be safe. She traveled to Trinidad and Pueblo during the rise in polio and the iron lung.
With the war escalating, internment camps continued to pop up around the country. Hara was thankful that she was away from the prejudices toward Japanese in California.
“In Nebraska we were lucky because it was mostly ones (internment camps) in California,” she said. “I had some friends from Arizona and they said they were terrible because the wind was blowing and the sand was flying.”
With her nursing degree in hand, Hara returned to Nebraska with the intention of traveling to Maryland and becoming a pediatric nurse. However, her mother informed her that her younger sister wanted to attend college, so Hara stayed at home to see her sister through. To earn income, Hara applied to work at Saint Mary’s Catholic Hospital in Scottsbluff.
“The first thing they taught us was you see God in every patient,” said Hara. “You think when you’re a nurse, is that going to be true but then I worked 30 years and you get to know those patients and see kids grow up.”
While she stayed in the valley, she met farmer Frank Hara, who later became her husband.
He graduated from Scottsbluff High School in 1942 and started farming south of Mitchell in 1943 with his brother Dan Hara.
Her in-laws came to the states from Hiroshima, Japan. Her father-in-law also came to settle in the valley by working for the railroad.
“I have two sisters and my older sister said ‘I wouldn’t mind marrying a farmer,’” Hara said. “I said I’m not going to marry a farmer because I’ve lived all my life on the farm. All I can think about is working out and I’m not going to be. I’m the only one who married a farmer.”
On Nov. 23, 1949, the couple were wed.
The Haras had three children: Tim, Jody, and Jill. Hara is also a grandmother and a great-grandmother.
Never heading to Maryland, Hara worked as a nurse at Regional Medical Center.
As the Issei generation aged, Hara said the Japanese culture to care for their father and mother was passed down. The Nisei were raised in a mixed culture of Japanese and American, but they held onto the tradition and passed it on to their children. Hara said that tradition is being lost among the third generation since they are dispersed after achieving an education.
While Hara is a retired registered nurse, she volunteered at a variety of places, including Regional West Medical Center for 20 years.
“Once you are a nurse you never stop being a nurse,” she said. “I could not picture myself doing anything else.”
Aside from her time volunteering, Hara wrote one book and is currently wrapping up a second one. The books are focused on the Issei, Japanese-born American immigrants and the Nisei, the second generation who were born in America.
Hara said she was inspired to document the Issei and Nisei history for the coming generations.
“I kept thinking about maybe 20 years down the line, these kids will be interested,” she said.
As she wrapped up her first book, Hara decided to write about her generation, the Nisei, which she plans to have completed by the end of the year.
Throughout her life, Hara has been passionate about helping others while staying rooted in her Japanese culture.