Holloway “Holly” Sumner’s granddaughter, Pattie, has a warm memory of him welcoming her to his home with outstretched arms, wearing a red Hawaiian shirt, holding a Lucky Strike cigarette between his fingers, and singing to her, “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.” He was very special to her. She did not know as a little girl how special he was to other people also.
Holly Sumner was a longtime resident of Chula Vista, California. At one time he was Deputy City Marshall, Assistant Fire Chief, and owned the first Ford and Caterpillar dealerships.
In the 1940s Holly owned an insurance business and had clients who were Japanese Americans. When he learned they were going to be relocated to internment camps, Holly went to them with an offer.* If they would sell him their property for $1, he would sell it back to them for $1 when they came back after the war.
WWII ended, and Holly kept his word. Holloway Sumner died in 1971.
Holly had a son, Walter Holloway Sumner. Walter was a WWII B-17 pilot with the 306th Bomb Group based in Thurleigh, England. He was Pattie’s father.
When Walter died in 1975, Pattie and her family held a memorial service for him. At a point during the service, Pattie turned around and noticed about eight Japanese Americans among the mourners. She came to find out that they were family members of those Japanese Americans her grandfather had helped during WWII. They attended his son’s memorial service out of a still held respect for the Sumner family. Holly’s compassion in a time of war was long remembered.
Story as told to me by Pattie Sumner. Story and family photograph posted with her permission.
My uncle, Adrian O’Konski, was the navigator on the Walter Sumner crew.
The Holloway Sumner home is designated a historic site by the City of Chula Vista, California.
* President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order (EO) 9066 on February 19, 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The EO, “Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas,” was the basis for the development of civilian internment camps in the US during WWII. Japanese Americans and some civilians of German and Italian descent were relocated to these camps.