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September 2, 2009 > History: The Fudenna Family

History: The Fudenna Family

Kiichi Fudenna came from Japan to Warm Springs in 1910 and returned to his homeland in 1913 to marry Hamano Yokoyama. They settled in the Warm Springs area to raise their seven children: James (Jim), Harold, Takeo (Tak), Vivian, Mae, Betty and Irene. All attended Washington Township schools and Washington Union High School.

The Fudenna family farmed in the Warm Springs area raising strawberries, tomatoes and a variety of vegetables. Kiichi was killed in a fire in 1934 when James was 18. He assumed the position of head of the house, helping his mother raise the younger children.

The family was evacuated to Utah in May of 1942 along with other Japanese-American citizens. Takeo was drafted and served with the Nisei Regiment, the 442nd and the 100th Battalion in Italy and France. Harold enlisted in the United States Army and served with the Intelligence Forces in the South Pacific. A linguist, he was decorated for intercepting a message indicating the whereabouts of Admiral Yamamoto's plane. The admiral had masterminded the attack on Pearl Harbor. When the plane was shot down with no survivors, General MacArthur called it "one of the singularly most significant actions of the Pacific war."

After the war, the family returned to the 20-acre farm in Warm Springs. They continued farming, specializing in cauliflower and lettuce. Their operation grew into a huge 900-acre farm, and by the 1950's they farmed up to 1500 acres for themselves and others. They also formed a wholesale farm produce business.

The family purchased the 100-acre Bracher Ranch between Fremont Boulevard and Paseo Padre Parkway in 1949. Later, they erected a huge packing, shipping and marketing structure in Warm Springs and sent lettuce and cauliflower across the United States and around the world. Harold served as the plant manager, while Tak oversaw the farming and Jim handled the operation between the fields and the plant.

Jim married Kimie Matsukane and their children are Larry, Margene, Jerry and Beverly. Jim was a mainstay of the Fudenna family and served as president of Fudenna Bros., Inc. He was also a charter member of the City of Fremont Planning Commission. Jim was a seasoned pilot with a great sense of adventure, once flying over the Andes. He flew around the world with his wife and a friend in a modified Cessna 421 and was greeted in Japan by TV news crews!

Harold married Sue Nagai, and their children are Keith, Dale and Paul. Harold was manager of the produce plant after he graduated from the University of California Berkeley. He was a member of the Niles Rotary Club, the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, a Boy Scout leader and a Blue Lodge Mason.

Vivian married Joe Takeda, a San Jose nurseryman. Their children are Glenn, Eldon and Joyce. Mae married George Nishiguchi. Their children are Charles, Rick, Sandy and Donny. Betty married Henry Sakamoto. Their children are Calvin, Verne, Larene, Dean, Mylene, Darin and Jerilynn. Irene married Frank Takaki. Their children are Jeanne, Jason and Matt.

Family members decided in the 1960's that their future was in building instead of farming, so they hired a land use consultant to consider a plan for their property. They formed SKS Industries, Inc. named for Sachi, Kimie and Sue Fudenna. The plan included a golf course with a gradual development that led through phases to apartment houses, office buildings, gas stations and the Parkway Towers, Fremont's first high rise apartment building. The family donated five acres of their property to the City of Fremont for a city hall site as a sign of their appreciation.

Tak married Sachi Kamiji and their children are John, Len, Nikki, Frank, Bob and Steve. He loved sports, and his children were star athletes at Washington High. In the early 70's he conceived the idea of building a new stadium at Washington where all Fremont athletes could compete. He recruited friends in all areas of construction who donated their time, expertise and materials. He solicited help from alumni, parents, and employees who contributed time and labor to the project. He was described as an "unassuming farmer, a wonderful guy with a great sense of humor." Sadly, he was killed in an automobile accident just two months before the stadium's completion. Tak Fudenna Stadium was dedicated in his honor on October 13, 1972.

SKS Industries Inc. continues to flourish, and the farming heritage of the family continues to prosper as Tak's children carry on farming operations in California and Arizona.

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