We are delighted to introduce you to Lily Jew as part of our “Neighbor of the Month” series-an effort started in 2013 to highlight Elysian Valley residents and stakeholders. It is our sincere hope that doing so contributes in some fashion to better know one another, build, grow and appreciate the make-up of our community. The NW thanks Lily for her contribution to EV. If you missed our earlier recognitions (Robert Garcia, Frank & Lucy, Raul Martinez, Bob Berg, Pauline Pritchett, Ronald Muir, Susan Campos, Mrs. Lau Wong Svi Ching, Tracy Stone & Allen Anderson, Carl Dickerson, Mary Cardona, Marie Rae Gurule, Jed Donaldson, Francisco Gonzalez, Eduardo and Margarita Mora, Ramona Lopez, Michael Ham), we invite you to visit our website.
Lily Yuriko Jew was born to Mrs. Fujiye and Mr. Ichitaro (Ben) in Korea Town (Los Angeles, CA ) in 1939. Lily remembers her entire family (including uncles and grandparents) encamped by the U.S. Government during the World War II round up of Japanese Americans. Her family was initially taken to a site in Santa Anita, CA in 1941 and later transferred to a tent city in Gila Bend, Arizona—a site of a Native American reservation. She recalls it being hot and somehow having cats. She confesses that much of these memories are from stories heard from older family members. They remained there until the end of the war in 1945 by which time Lily was nearly six (6) years old and did not speak a word of English. When asked what emotions are triggered by this experience, Lilly states that there aren’t many. “My parents never talked about it, if they were mad or had any ill feelings; it was never expressed to us.”
Lily’s describes her father as a “good gardener”. After the war and still with plenty of animosity lingering, Lily recalls her dad being aided by a Jewish family who provided safe storage for his tools and his converted Model T/truck. Her dad was big on education and wanted his children to go to college. Lily attended Hobart Boulevard Elementary School, graduated from Manual Arts High School and went to LACC for two years.
She met her husband (now deceased) at a school dance when she was 16 years young and married him in 1960, just shy of her 21st birthday. Lily describes him as a handsome Chinese born man who worked as a parking attendant in Chinatown. “He was a steady good man, a non-drinker, non-smoker and hard-working”, says Lily. She found these qualities in him most attractive. Together they had two boys (Kenny and Kevin). “My mother in law was overjoyed with their birth”, recalls Lily. Both children attended the local schools (Dorris PL Elementary, Irving Middle School and John Marshall High).
Both of her children live locally and are employed in City government. Kevin is a Cal State LA graduate, an accomplishment with special added significance to Lilly because of how important education was to her father. My grandchildren are ¼ Chinese, ¼ Japanese and ½ Hispanic, says Lily. Her granddaughter Niki is a medical student at Cornell University and an accomplished ballerina. Grandson Austin is a senior at John Burroughs High School in Burbank and is a talented singer. “I am so proud of both of them, they are pretty brilliant and are doing so well.” When asked to compare the joy felt as a parent vs that of a grandparent, Lilly is quick to state that being a grandma is the most joyful of the two. “Watching them grow as persons and helping them along brings me great joy.”
When asked how she came to live in Elysian Valley, Lilly recalls moving in with her in-laws as newly weds. “We didn’t have a pot to pee in at the time”, says Lilly jokingly. Her in laws owned a property on Glover St. near modern day site of Jardin del Rio Community Garden, which Lily remembers being a dirt road. Her father in law served in General Patton’s Army.
After six years, Lily and husband rented a house on Riverdale Ave. for $68.50 per month. They were not there long and soon bought the house she presently occupies on Shoredale Ave. in 1968 for $21,500.00, which included an extra lot next door.
Lily retired in 2003 from LAPD after 34 1/2 years of service in various department capacities (i.e., records, traffic, et al). She remembers her starting salary being approximately $400 per month. Lily is enjoying retired life and in it finds herself knowing and exploring the neighborhood in ways not previously afforded by her busy work schedule. Lily is an animal lover and can be seen walking her dogs in the neighborhood. “These pets are like my kids”, says Lily.
When asked what it is about Elysian Valley that she most likes, Lily likes the closeness she has with her friends and neighbors. Lily enjoys seeing their familiar faces on her daily walks and exchanging warm greetings. “I enjoy the Neighborhood Watch meetings and was happy to serve in the Neighborhood Council when needed”, says Lily.
Lily describes herself as “old fashion” and has mixed feelings about the many changes unfolding in Elysian Valley. She welcomes the added services but is saddened by rising property values, which are pricing people out. “I miss the smell of freshly baked bread from the many bakeries that once made their home in EV.” Lily likes seeing residents make use of the new services in the area. Having recently decided to not renew her driver’s license she hopes that the ongoing effort to bring in DASH transportation succeeds. “Not having good public transportation in Elysian Valley keeps me from volunteering as I did when driving and frankly angers me”, says Lilly. She too would like a “better senior center”.
When all is said and done, Lily hopes to be remembered by her friends and neighbors in Elysian Valley as a “nice person.” Lily hates seeing people in trouble and does not hesitate to assist people in need. Asked how she wants to be remembered by her family, Lily wants both her children and grandkids to know that she “loves them very much and are her everything”.