Letters: The Lives We Lost In 2012

NPR's Celeste Headlee reads from a flood of remembrances listeners sent in during our annual show acknowledging the lives lost in the previous 12 months.

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CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

It's Wednesday, and time to read from your comments. It's become a tradition on this show near the end of every year to focus on some of the lesser-known people who died over the past year. And every year, we ask you: Tell us about someone you knew, whom you think we should remember. The response was overwhelming.

Brian Hamasaki(ph) emailed from Mission, Kansas, to tell us about Jimmy Mirikitani. He passed away at age 92 in October. Brian wrote: Jimmy was a survivor of the Tule Lake Word War II Japanese-American internment camp. After the war, Jimmy made his way to New York City and became a personal cook for a man who lived on 5th Avenue. After his employer passed away, Jimmy became homeless and lived on the streets of the city for decades. He survived by creating art, paintings and drawings. A constant theme of that art was remembering what had happened during the war: The internment, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the city where many of his relatives lived. Jimmy eventually returned to Tule Lake and was able to make peace with the past, letting go of the anger he'd felt for 60 years.

Another listener, Charles, in Dover, Delaware, wanted to remember Nancy. He knew her as Ms. T. He says: She was an accomplished musician and organist in the D.C. area. She lived to be 102. She donated bamboo to feed the pandas as the National Zoo, and she founded the Potomac English Handbell Ringers. That D.C. group performed around the world from the 1950s until the late 1980s.

And then this Jeff Garon(ph) in Morton, Illinois: I'd like to bring up the recent loss of a local Iraq veteran. Tyler Ziegel of Metamora, Illinois, died on December 25 from a fall on the ice. At age 22, Tyler survived a bomb blast in Iraq in 2004 that left him severely disfigured. He was 30 years old when he left us and spoke at the local schools about overcoming his injuries and how to be strong during hard times. The local town is honoring his military service by erecting 1,200 U.S. flags along the roadways coming into and out of Metamora. It's truly a moving sight to see.

Phyllis Fantini(ph) of Lawrence, Kansas, sends this email: My brother Richard Maguire(ph) died June 19th in Delaware. He was in radio in the Wilmington, Delaware area. He also had a pirate radio station that was on the air for over 40 years.

And finally, Monica Cummins wrote this from Middletown, Ohio, with this remembrance of her friend, Bob Ryan: I got to know Bob when I became employed at Holy Family Parish in Middletown, Ohio. Bob had retired from working as a manager at the local Kroger grocery, and everyone in town knew him. He was involved in everything, in particular a Keep Middletown Beautiful trash clean-up program. Bob called himself the head crap picker-upper, and was able - with his gentle cajoling and big heart and contagious smile - to get a big group of us to meet four times a year at a local park early Saturday morning to set out in different directions picking up trash.

Bob would bring water and thrash bags and encouraging words, and on the last pickup in November, treat us all to pancakes at the annual Kaunas Pancake Day. Bob sang in three choirs. He was an active member of the Knights of Columbus, cared for the infirmed in our parish and just made life fun. I miss him.

Thanks to everyone who emailed with your remembrances. You can read about more of the people we talked about on this show last week. That conversation is online at npr.org. If you have a correction, comment or questions for us, the best way to reach us is by email. Our address is talk@npr.org. Please, let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name. Help me out here. If you're on Twitter, you can follow us there @totn.

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