For Vashon Island native Mary Matsuda Gruenewald, the ferry ride from West Seattle to her hometown represents reconciliation.
“It’s always a big deal for me to go to Vashon. That’s home, you see,” Matsuda Gruenewald said.
The 92-year-old received her diploma from Vashon Island High School on Saturday, 74 years after she was supposed to get it.
“I never did have a memorable experience from my graduation from high school,” she said.
June of 1943 was intended to be a time of great pomp, but circumstance in the form of Japanese Internment prevented Matsuda Gruenewald from graduating. She was 17 when her family was forced to leave the island and to spend three years at an internment camp in California.
“I think this is an incredible point in anybody’s life to be able to graduate from high school. My parents and my brother – I wish they could have been here to see this. They would have been really proud, just as I am. I’m very grateful to be here,” Matsuda Gruenewald said.
She has carried the pain from internment for decades, even writing a book called “Looking Like the Enemy.”
Matsuda Gruenewald went on to graduate from Seattle Pacific University and become a nurse. Her consulting services became a national model for Group Health Cooperative. All this, despite never receiving her high school diploma until now.
“To be received back now. It just eliminates all of the heartaches and the worries and disagreements,” Matsuda Gruenewald said. “And so here we are: back again here together, which is the key.”