Prejudice vanquished 60 years later
Couple returns to ACU, where love was torn
apart after Pearl Harbor
Reprinted from the Abilene Reporter-News
Oct. 22, 2000
By Loretta Fulton
Reporter-News Staff Writer
Not even the halting pace brought on by age could mar the
walk across campus for Masaaki Ishiguro and his bride of
Masaaki and Anne Ramsey wanted to take that same stroll,
hand-in-hand, around the Abilene Christian University campus
nearly 60 years ago when they were young and in love. But it
would be homecoming 2000 before the Ishiguros would do so
publicly, this time as man and wife.
In the early 1940s, Ishiguro, known as "Ishi" to some and
"Robert" to others, was a well-liked student at then-Abilene
Christian College. He even founded a social club, Frater
Sodalis, that remains active today.
But when his native Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7,
1941, Ishiguro's world turned upside down, along with
everyone else's in the United States. Suddenly he was "the
enemy" and, just as quickly, his courtship of Anne Ramsey, a
coed from Ennis, was taboo.
The couple didn't experience many difficulties on campus
before they announced their engagement. But once word got to
the administration that they planned to marry, Anne and
Masaaki started feeling the repercussions.
Even before the engagement, the townspeople were none too
friendly if the couple happened to be seen off-campus, Anne
"If he and I went to town, people would do everything but
spit on the sidewalks," she said.
In retrospect, the newlyweds understand the sentiment.
America was at war, and soldiers were training just a few
miles away at Camp Barkeley. Remarkably, neither holds a
grudge about being robbed of a lifetime together.
"I hold no resentment," said Masaaki, who is now 81. "I
always try to think positively."
Still, Anne, 76, admits she was apprehensive about
returning to Abilene for the first time since she graduated
with an art degree in 1945, this time married to the man she
loved only in her memories for nearly 60 years. The
reception the couple received at ACU's homecoming last
weekend was more than they ever dreamed possible.
"I think we're going to have to make a scrapbook," Anne
said. "This has been such a fantastic trip out here."
Even Masaaki's old fraternity bent the rules to
accommodate a brother and his wife. Normally, the Frater
Sodalis breakfast is open only to former members of the
all-male club. But this time, Anne not only was invited, she
was in the spotlight, along with Masaaki.
Fraternity brothers sang "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and
gave Masaaki a plaque proclaiming him "an official good
Masaaki was living in California when he and Anne
reunited last spring, and he has since moved to her home in
DeSoto, near Dallas.
Their finding each other after so many years was almost
as involved as what happened to them while they were
Anne married in 1946 after believing she had lost "Ishi"
forever. Her husband died in 1973 and she remarried in 1980.
Her second husband died in 1987.
Masaaki married in 1959, and his wife died in September
1999. Not long afterward, Masaaki began a search for Anne,
not knowing that she had called his house five or six years
before, only to hang up when his wife answered.
Through an Internet search, Masaaki found Anne's number
and called her on March 23. Anne still trembles at the
memory of picking up the phone.
"This is Ishi," was all he had to say, Anne recalled,
before she blurted out all the emotion she had suppressed
for more than half a century.
"I love you," she wept. "I've always loved you. I've
never stopped loving you."
The less emotional Masaaki assured Anne he felt the same
way, and the couple immediately began ringing up a huge
phone bill. Anne knew without hesitation that she and her
beloved "Ishi" would marry.
Friends tried to convince her he might not be the same
man. And her three children might not understand. She was
not deterred. Even if "Ishi'' had changed, Anne was
convinced she could uncover the man she never stopped
"I know Masaaki is down there somewhere," she told
doubters. "And I will get him out."
She needn't have worried. Masaaki vividly remembers
reuniting with Anne in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in
April, three weeks after he called her.
"She still looked like what she looked like here at the
university," Masaaki said. "She still looked beautiful."
Anne and Masaaki were married June 11 and are devoting
the rest of their lives to the happiness that escaped them
They do not dwell on what might have been, but rather
live each moment as fully as if they were youngsters.
"I told her I wouldn't die until I was 150," Masaaki
The end of Anne and Masaaki's story is as happy as the
beginning. It was only the intervening years that brought
Anne came to Abilene Christian in 1941 from a small East
Texas town. Masaaki was born in Tokyo in 1919, and came with
his family to the Untied States in 1923.
His father, who was converted to Christianity in Japan by
Church of Christ missionaries, earned a degree in religion
at Abilene Christian in 1922, but his wife remained in
Tokyo. In 1923, Masaaki's father established a church in Los
Angeles and moved his family there.
Later, Masaaki attended Pepperdine University, a Church
of Christ institution in Malibu, Calif.
All was well until war erupted, and Masaaki's father fell
under the suspicious eye of a jittery U.S. government.
"When the war broke out, the FBI picked him up and took
him to an internment camp," Masaaki remembered.
He was held in the camp four years. In the meantime,
Masaaki's mother died in Tokyo. Government officials told
Masaaki he could either leave the West Coast or be interned
along with his father.
The president of Pepperdine University arranged for
Masaaki to transfer to Abilene Christian, a sister
institution far from the West Coast. Masaaki chose to move
to Abilene, and one day his path crossed that of Anne
"I saw him and it's all it took," Anne recalled. "I just
instantly loved him."
The reticent Masaaki, not used to such brazen thinking,
took a little longer.
"I think I was oblivious to it," he confessed.
The couple started dating, with no problems. In fact,
Masaaki was a favorite with many faculty members who had
gone to school with his father.
"I was treated fabulously well," Masaaki said.
But when the couple got engaged, the mood on campus
turned dark. There were warnings not to be seen holding
hands and to stay away from townspeople who were caught up
in a patriotic fervor. The engagement didn't last long.
Masaaki earned a degree in chemistry in 1944 and found a
job as a water analyst in Chicago while doing post-graduate
work at DePaul University. His nationality didn't matter to
"They had me start the first day I went there for an
interview," Masaaki said.
Meanwhile back at Abilene Christian, Anne was finishing
her art degree and wondering why Masaaki didn't write.
"I kept waiting for a letter," she said. "The days turned
She consulted a Japanese girl on campus who knew Masaaki.
The girl told her that Masaaki said he was writing letters,
but apparently they were being intercepted.
Unbeknownst to Anne, someone maliciously sent a letter to
Masaaki, pretending to be Anne and asking that he return her
photo. Then someone wrote telling him that Anne was dating
"I think they thought they were doing their patriotic
duty," Masaaki said. "But it sure ruined our lives."
The engagement was over, and a lifetime of wondering had
begun. Masaaki left Chicago after a year and moved to Austin
to study at the University of Texas. His father, now
released from the internment camp, was in poor health in Los
Angeles and needed his son's help.
Masaaki moved west and worked as a chemist in Los
Angeles. Back in Texas, Anne was married and starting a
Years later, after the death of her second husband, the
small whisper of hope that Anne never lost began to speak
One day, a representative from a yearbook company called
and wanted to know if Anne would like to buy an annual from
her old college. She said she would buy the book if the
salesman could furnish her with Masaaki's phone number.
He did, and Anne called, only to hear the voice of Mrs.
Ishiguro on the other end. Anne put the memories of Ishi
back where they had been and moved on with her life. Then,
on March 23, the phone rang and a voice so familiar said,
"This is Ishi."
After the couple decided to marry, Masaaki, now retired
as a chemist from Lever Brothers, sold his house within a
week and moved only his clothes, some compact discs and an
office desk to DeSoto.
Abilene Christian University was a long way from the
couple's memory until Masaaki's old fraternity contacted
them, inviting the couple to homecoming. They were
apprehensive, but realized that no one at the university had
anything to do with the trials they had faced.
They made the decision to come, even though their pace
has slowed and walking around campus isn't as easy as it
once was. Returning to the spot where they first fell in
love erased a lot of bad memories.
"We're coasting now," Anne said. "We're fine."
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