He’s a folk hero in Japan - honored by the Emperor and the United Nations.

But the name “Floyd Schmoe” hardly raises an eyebrow in his hometown of Seattle. A good friend of his hopes a new Japanese documentary will change that.

Jean Walkinshaw was just 26 when she found herself seated next to Schmoe at a Quaker Friends meeting.

“And right then and there, he asked if I’d like to go to Hiroshima to build houses,” said Walkinshaw.

Now 92, Walkinshaw says she’s delighted producers from NHK World in Japan are telling Schmoe’s story and how he recruited volunteers from Seattle and Japan to build homes for atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima as a peace gesture.

“His basic reason was to ask for forgiveness and to express his sorrow over having caused such distress on the part of a huge population of people,” explains Walkinshaw.

Floyd Schmoe, a devoted Quaker, was the first naturalist at Mount Rainier National Park and taught biology at the University of Washington. 

A committed peace activist, Schmoe and a diverse group of volunteers built 21 homes for atomic bomb survivors over a five year period beginning in 1948.

“I had absolutely no carpentry skills,” laughed Walkinshaw, but says after a while, she got pretty good at mixing concrete and shaving wood for mortise and tenon joints, since nails were rare in post-War Japan.

“It’s really kind of refreshing that here it is – NHK – that has honored him in a way we in our own community never have,” said Walkinshaw. 

A free public screening of “Houses for Peace: Exploring the Legacy of Floyd Schmoe” will take place Sunday, January 13 at 2 p.m. at the University of Washington's Kane Hall. Doors open at 1:30.

Click here to learn more.

Houses for Peace: Exploring the legacy of Floyd Schmoe
NHK World - Japan