SEATTLE -- His name is listed with distinguished visitors such as President Carter, Mother Teresa and the Emperor of Japan. He has near-hero status in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. But Floyd Schmoe, an unassuming UW forestry professor, never thought of himself that way. He thought he was just building houses. In November, Hiroshima will honor him with a museum that he helped build himself more than 60 years ago.
Schmoe's grandson, Tom Schmoe, says his grandfather, a Quaker and conscientious objector during World War I, got to Japan in 1949 determined to build houses. Problem was, he had no idea how to build the Japanese way, with post and beam. He hired a Japanese carpenter to teach him how and forged ahead. With his buddy the Reverend Emery Andrews of Seattle Japanese Baptist Church and others, Schmoe was able to construct 26 houses between 1949-52.
"For him, (what drove him) was a profound sense of guilt and shame at what the U.S. had done," said Tom Schmoe. "He felt that he had to make reparations."
The city of Hiroshima has invited Schmoe's relatives and Rev. Andrews' son Brooks, also a minister at Japanese Baptist, to help dedicate one of the last remaining houses which has become a museum. It was moved to make way for new development to the Eba neighborhood and will be the first satellite museum of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Tom Schmoe says his grandfather would probably be surprised by all the fuss. "He didn't go there for the ceremonies. He went there to build houses. He mentions being bewildered by it all."
Rev. Brooks Andrews agrees. "It wasn't to build monuments to themselves. It was all about peace and goodwill."
The Seattle delegation will tell their hosts in Hiroshima how Floyd Schmoe so loved the people of that city that at age 90, he used proceeds from a Peace Prize he won to help build a peace park in Seattle with a statue of Sadako, a young atomic bomb victim. Schmoe died in 2001 at the age of 105.
To support the new Floyd Schmoe Museum, Japanese Baptist Church will host a concert by Mike Stern, performing music inspired by Hiroshima, Sunday September 30 at 3 p.m. 160 Broadway, Seattle.