Humans of Washington High School: Tak Fudenna

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Tak Fudenna Memorial Stadium is a highlight of Washington High School. The stadium hosts the sports teams of all the high schools in the Fremont Unified School District. Tak Fudenna’s name is proudly emblazoned at the top of the entrance to the arena. But who was Tak Fudenna and why was this stadium dedicated to him?

Takeo Fudenna, nicknamed “Tak,” was a second-generation Japanese-American and Washington High School graduate in the Class of 1939. He was also a farmer and resident of Fremont in the early 20th century. Fudenna and his two brothers had the largest cauliflower farm in Fremont. When World War II happened, by order of Executive Order 9066, Fudenna and his mother were forcibly imprisoned in Utah at the Topaz Internment Camp Site. 120,000 Japanese-Americans were wrongfully imprisoned during this time, and 1,862 of them died. His prized farm, along with many others belonging to Japanese-Americans, was confiscated. On his experiences at the concentration camp, Fudenna said “When it’s over, it’s over. Just plow it under.” Fudenna’s future wife, Sachi, was also at the same concentration camp as him, but they did not meet each other until they both returned from the war. In an interview with California Superior Court Judge Johnny Gogo, Sachi said that she remembered that Fudenna had a red Corvette and thought he was rich because he had a nice car. Their parents would not let them go alone on dates, so Michi and Fudenna’s younger sister Irene would pile in the backseat on road trips around the Bay with the top down as much as possible.

When he was 18, Fudenna received a draft notice to serve in the Japanese-American 442nd Regiment, where he served in North Africa and Italy. This infantry regiment is best known as the most decorated battalion in US military history. In total, the unit received more than 4,000 Purple Hearts and a Congressional Gold Medal for its service. The 442nd RCT was formed in response to the War Department’s call for volunteers to form combat units. Many of the soldiers in the unit had family members living in US concentration camps while they fought for the US abroad. Fudenna joined the regiment only a little while after returning from the Topaz concentration camp. In combat, this battalion had the most casualties and Fudenna later received a Bronze Star for his service.

Fudenna family outside of Tak Fudenna Memorial Stadium.

Fudenna family in front of the Flag Signing Project.

After he returned from the war, Fudenna married Sachi and started Fudenna Bros. with his siblings. He had six children, and three of them went on to become star athletes. Fudenna was a big supporter of high school sports programs, and he and his wife never missed a football game. After his children finished high school, he still wanted to give something to the youth of Fremont. He settled on building a top quality football stadium with his friends. Upon hearing his proposal, donations and support from the community poured in and the project was a success. At age 51, he was tragically killed in a road accident, the year before the end of the construction of the stadium. “Tak had a marvelous reputation in the city,” said Kennedy coach Pete Michaletos. “He did it, he took the bull by the horns. He would be the one to get a shovel and get it going.” The stadium was named in his honor, with his first name “Takeo” shortened to “Tak.” With his hard work, he managed to leave behind a remarkable legacy of service in the City of Fremont. “He was truly a common, Uncommon man,” said Fudenna’s close friend.

“History is important,” said Michaletos. “It’s important to know the people who were involved with it.” The next time you’re told to go to “Tak” or pass by the stadium, take a second to think about the legacy and man who gave much to the community behind it. 

Further Reading:

Flag Signing Project

Washington History

An Uncommon Man

Tak Stadium

Venya Karpelevitch is a junior at Washington High School. He has lived and grown up in Fremont, California. This is his first year at The Hatchet. His journalistic interests are politics and Jewish issues. His hobbies include video games, biking, and debate. He plans on pursuing chemistry in college, as well as learning at a yeshiva.

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