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Family giving back to Battle Lake community after welcoming them shortly after World War Two

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Battle Lake, MN (WDAY TV) - What a life-lesson to learn from our next story.

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It comes from Battle Lake, Minnesota. Where a family is giving back to its community after welcoming them shortly after World War Two.

It is a story that starts at Pearl Harbor, and an internment camp in the desert.

“There was a slough.”

Rod Nakagaki walks the land where he and his four siblings grew up here in Battle Lake.

“In the wintertime there was a big pile of snow and we would jump off this hill.”

It was decades ago that Rod's parents, Shig and Mitzi Nakagaki came to Battle Lake after meeting in a Japanese Internment Camp in the Arizona Desert. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, FDR ordered Japanese-American citizens to special camps.

“So both families lost their farms and possessions.”

The stories of the war, that camp, never came up once the war ended.

Rod Nakagaki/Son of Shig and Mitzi:”They never talked to us about it, I did not hear about it until I was doing a special report in high school. That they had even been in camp.

Today, in Battle Lake, the community welcomed the family of the Shig and Mitzi Nakagaki. The couple worked in the poultry industry for years.

Nakagaki: “16,000 laying hens when they retired.”

Successful. Both have passed away, but the family is donating much of the 55 acres to the Good Sam, to expand an already growing nursing home and assisted living center.

Nakagaki: “It is their way of giving back that at first tolerated them, welcomed them and now cherishes them.”

The giving is not new for the family. Shig and Mitzi gave land to the school for expansion and quiet donations to others was common.

Nakagaki: “The workers that picked eggs, told of how Mitzi and Shig put their son through college.”

It would have been easy for Shig and Mitzi to be bitter following life in an internment camp, but they started from scratch, raised a family and now are returning thanks to a town that welcomed them.

Nakagaki: “Probably the most important thing is he always played the hand he was dealt, no matter what the adversity, injustice, misfortune, bad luck, accepted his fate and moved on, made the most of his cards and lived his life to the fullest.”

Because of the Shig and Mitzi's contributions as community leaders, the expansion at Good Sam will be named in their honor.

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Kevin Wallevand
Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia and the Middle East. He is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award recipient.
(701) 241-5317
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