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Lodi native's book salutes Old Glory

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Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2001 10:00 pm

Delphine Hirasuna grew up in Lodi and considers herself a patriotic American. Until recently, though, she never had much reason to be a flag-waver.

Hirasuna, a third-generation Lodian of Japanese heritage, still has roots in town, but has gone on to a successful career as a writer and now lives in San Francisco.

Last April, she collaborated with a long-time friend and associate, Kit Hinrichs, to produce a large-format book showcasing his impressive collection of American flags and related memorabilia.

"Long May She Wave," is a coffee table-style book featuring hundreds of images of the American icon in every form from banners, blankets and apparel to children's toys, political statements, jewelry and American Indian art. "But I hope that people actually read it and use it as a reference as well," Hirasuna said.

Delphine Hirasuna
Delphine Hirasuna

The book was well-received at first and sales picked up around the Fourth of July holiday, she said.

But with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the subsequent military action in Afghanistan sparking more visible displays of patriotism than any time in the recent past, sales of the book have really taken off, Hirasuna said.

"We feel a little sheepish about that," she said. "We never intended to profit from these tragic events, but we had no way to know this would happen."

Even so, the publishers, Ten-Speed Press, are contributing a portion of the proceeds of the book, which is now in its second printing, to the American Red Cross.

Hirasuna put in about six months of extensive research on the history, laws and traditions surrounding the American flag, in addition to her long association with Hinrichs, who supplied a lot of the information for the book.

"I loved doing the research," Hirasuna said. "I learned so much. For example, did you know that Betsy Ross did not design the flag?"

Hirasuna said she always knew she wanted to be a writer, and she was pursuing her goals at Lodi High School. The editor of the Lodi High paper, The Flame, she intended to pursue a career in journalism.

Her life choice was jump-started, though, one day in 1964, when the then editor of the News-Sentinel's society page came down with a sudden attack of appendicitis.

Strapped for help, the newspaper called Lodi High's journalism department and begged for a temporary relief person. Hirasuna was sent over to fill in, and she turned the opportunity into a regular job for two summers. She later attended Delta College and completed a bachelor's degree in journalism at San Francisco State University.

She went on to a career as a corporate writer, and to date has published a half dozen books on topics from Japanese cuisine, to Central Valley vegetables, a technical text on typography and one on the San Francisco Presidio.

The current work is mostly a result of her long friendship with Hinrichs, who has a passion for the potent symbol.

"We were intrigued by how powerful a symbolic value (the flag) has. These days it even brings people to tears." she said.

The pieces in the book, however, represent only a portion of Hinrichs' enormous collection, which is currently on display at the George W. Bush Sr. Library in Texas.

Hirasuna's family has been in Lodi for three generations, and she still has many connections here.

She returns every weekend to help take care of her 95-year-old father, who still lives on his walnut farm near Lockeford. Although born in Hawaii, he was sent to a Japanese internment camp in Arkansas in early World War II, and then was drafted straight out of the camp into the famous all-Japanese 442nd Infantry division to fight in the war.

Her mother was born in Lodi in 1915, and her side of the family, the Sasakis, figure prominently in several local businesses.

She said she is a little saddened by the changes in Lodi when she returns to town.

She remembers hanging out at Woolworth's and JCPenney's in the 1960s. "I remember School Street when it was something different, and this new stuff feels a little foreign to me. I still feel like I am in town when I come through the arch, though."

Hirasuna has lived a fairly cosmopolitan life, but still considers herself a Lodi farm girl.

"Whenever anyone asks me where I am from, I always say 'Lodi,' without even thinking. This will always be home to me," Hirasuna said.

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