March 15, 2011
AT A GLANCE The Jefferson Awards for Public Service honor outstanding volunteers in our community. The area’s representative to go to Washington, D.C., will be announced March 22 in a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Civic Center. For eight days, The Lima News offers profiles of this year’s finalists:Today: David C. SmithFriday: Ray Ward and Paula ThompsonTuesday, March 15: Jerome O’NealWednesday, March 16: Keiko HahnThursday, March 17: Sherry FetzerFriday, March 18: Donald SmithSaturday, March 19: Dr. Shama AminTuesday, March 22: Quan CoryLIMA — As a girl in Japan, she attended a Christian school in which girls learned how to be ladies: embroidery work and dinner party manners.Keiko Hahn preferred to have her hands in the dirt, planting things. She has kept planting, in her gardens and in lives. Because of her work, seeds of new trust and friendship have taken root between people whose countries once were bitter enemies. The volunteering led to a nomination this year for the 2011 Jefferson Awards for Public Service.Hahn was on the original research committee that searched for a sister city for Lima and helped begin Lima Sister Cities Association and its relationship with Harima-cho, Japan. Since then, she has translated for the cities’ mayors, organized home stays and exchanges, helped with cultural displays and brought special experiences, such as the Bamboo Orchestra dinner and a kimono show, to Lima. She also helped create the Japanese Garden along the Riverwalk, which includes weeping cherry trees planted with donated funds from Harima-cho.“Keiko Hahn is a gracious and quiet woman of dignity and beauty. She does not speak of her accomplishments, her disappointments or her personal situations,” nominator Karen Phipps wrote. “She is open-hearted and thankful to God for all her blessings. She is a giver with no strings attached.”Hahn, 80, survived a World War II air raid at the age of 15. She took cover in a store basement and when it was over, walked through a tunnel expecting to see buildings on the other side. Everything was gone, and she could see to the beach.“After that, I just didn’t like war. Any war,” Hahn said in 2007. “I want to promote peace.”Her translating skills landed her a job through which she met an American GI, Frank Hahn, who would become her husband. She moved to the United States and became a naturalized citizen, but not before a federal official asked, if there was another war between the two countries, where would she place her allegiance. She didn’t have an answer, but the man pressed, and she said, “America.” Later she cried, and this week while retelling the story, she nearly cried again.Hahn’s life has been one of starting over, and finding beauty in whatever situation has presented to itself. She married and came to the states, made new friends and created a Japanese garden at her home. When she had to leave her home after her husband’s death in 2006, she had the Riverwalk garden she could help tend. The sister cities project was not something Hahn felt up to, at the time.“When Mayor (David) Berger asked me, I didn’t think I could do it,” she said. “I’m just plain Keiko.”Years later, this past winter, all the friends repaid her kindness with a surprise addition to the downtown garden, a stone with her family crest honoring her work.“We pulled up the garden and I saw all these cars. I said, ‘Who is fool enough to be at the garden now?’ It was the best birthday,” Hahn said. “I’ve heard in church God rewards good deeds, even when you’re not looking for them. I’ve not looked for them, but I guess it’s true.”You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.