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Jack Itsuo Henmi was born February 3, 1923 in Victoria, B.C. He was the eldest child of Sokichi Henmi (1894-1967) and Tatsu Henmi, nee Uchimi (1895- n.d.).
Sokichi Henmi immigrated to Canada in 1913, following his father, Kanekichi Henmi (1872-1935) who had come in 1907. Sokichi most likely immigrated with his mother Toyo Henmi nee Okuda (1872-n.d.). The two men began as fishermen, though Sokichi briefly worked at the Gorge Tea Garden in Victoria, B.C. Later, he would take up a dry-cleaning business, “Central Cleaners and Dryers”. During WWI, Sokichi was conscripted into the army, but did not show up for the physical. Japanese were exempt from military duty, yet the conscription order still required a physical. At the request from his mother Kanekichi, Sokichi was allowed to return to his work thanks to Rev. Kosaburo Shimizu negotiating his release and the judge dismissing his case. Tatsu Henmi immigrated to Canada in 1919 to join her husband, whom she married in a ceremony in 1918 in Japan where the groom was absent.
Kanekichi and Toyo would later welcome two daughters, Cindy Eiko Henmi (1914-1990) and Yaeko Henmi (1917-2002). Eiko became a prominent figure in Japanese Canadian rights, and Canadian literature as a poet. She wrote for The New Canadian, and sometimes published under the pseudonym Cinderella. She, like her brother, would eventually make her way to Montreal after internment.
Sokichi was an active member in the Japanese Canadian community in Victoria. He, with the help of Kunio Uyede helped to fundraise for a Judo Club dojo. At the beginning of relocation when Japanese Canadians were being forced off Vancouver Island, he and other community leaders approached the British Columbia Securities Commission to help facilitate the move as it had been in limbo for months.
Tastu and Sokichi soon welcomed two sons, Jack Itsuo Henmi and Robert Hiroshi Henmi (1928-n.d.). The two boys grew up in Victoria B.C. and enjoyed a variety of activities including basketball, Judo, and playing music. Jack graduated Victoria Highschool, class of ’42. His life was turned upside-down with WWII. He tried to join the Canadian Army in 1941 but was rejected. When forced to move off of Vancouver Island, the Henmi’s made their way to Sandon, B.C. Jack was a young, single man and thus separated from them, and sent east to manual labor jobs. He worked at a sugar beet farm in Glencoe Ontario, then went on to Port Credit. By 1943, Jack found employment with Stark Electrical Instrument Company, which allowed him to move to Toronto, ON.
Jack Itsuo Henmi began using “Hemmy” as his last name after coming to Toronto. He quickly joined the growing group of Nisei and other Japanese Canadians who had made their way to the city after being interned and forced out of the West coast. On November 17, 1945 Jack married Mary Ruriko Okazaki (1919-n.d.). They had four sons.
Mary Ruriko Okazaki was the daughter of Seisuke Okazaki (1888-1965) and Tomeyo Okazaki nee Yamada (1887-1944). She also had a brother, Arthur Kiyoto Okazaki (1921-n.d.). Seisuke immigrated to Canada in 1907 and worked as a chauffeur. He later pivoted to dry-cleaning, and became the owner of Victory Cleaners in Vancouver, B.C. During internment, the family eventually moved to Toronto, ON.
Jack Hemmy’s first job in Toronto was with Stark Electrical Instrument Co. in 1943. He moved to the city and joined the many other Japanese Canadians who were also finding employment and community. He enrolled in Ryerson Institute of Technology’s Photography program, taking night courses. Jack entered a two-year apprenticeship with Clement Staila Co. Ltd, learning photostat operations and reproduction. After completing the apprenticeship, he continued to work there for 13 years. In 1967, he started Dyna Photostat Service Ltd. He continued to run and operate the business for 10 years. 1977 brought Jack to Leslie Advertising as Account Executive. By the 1980s Jack taught as a reprographer within the Technological Studies Department of Ontario College of Art (now Ontario College of Art & Design University), retiring in 1988. Throughout his career, Jack took on freelance work, primarily from the Japanese Canadian community. He worked for The New Canadian, photographed events held by the Japanese Consulate in Toronto, and covered many gatherings at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.
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Created June 13, 2023 by E Carroll