Monday, June 1, 2015

A Tribute to Robert Sims

Photos by Teresa Tamura
Yesterday, Sun. May 31, 2015, was the memorial celebration to honor the life of Dr. Robert (Bob) Sims, professor of history emeritus and former dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs at Boise State University.

Several hundred people gathered in Boise's Barber Park Event Center along with Betty Sims, her three children and nine grandchildren. We listened to jazz music performed by Chuck Smith, Sandon Mayhew, Scott Reusser, and Kyle Baas and sat at round tables covered in white linens, adorned with fresh flowers. All the overflow seats were taken and people were standing around the perimeter as Mayor David Bleter, Micki Kawakami, David Skinner, and Todd Sims took turns sharing remembrances about Bob as a scholar, a historian of the Japanese American community, an educator, and a family man. Afterwards, friends and family ate and drank together as stories about Bob were shared in smaller groups as a photo slide show was continuously projected. Paul Tomita, a Japanese American who had been incarcerated in Minidoka as a child, drove from Seattle to pay his respects and unite with others who shared a connection to this special man.

Bob died at home on May 9, 2015, surrounded by loved ones. The week before, my husband and I were fortunate to have had the chance to visit with him. The Idaho Statesman published a story on May 13, "Friends mourn historian, ex-BSU dean, Robert Sims, who shared tales of WWII internment."

No day is good day to post this blog. It is the hardest one to write because without Bob's encouragement from the very beginning in 2001, I would not have been able to start the Minidoka book much less finish it. His lecture, Art in the Camps, introduced me to the work of Roger Shimomura, the first person I photographed, coincidentally in Boise. All throughout the decade-plus process as I worked on the book, Bob offered ideas, contacts, feedback, and most importantly, his friendship. He was a member of the Cherokee Nation and originally from Oklahoma.

I miss Bob and will always be indebted to him. His work with the Japanese American community started in a different era when certain topics were not openly discussed. I have his writings as a rich resource to this history and memories of many great conversations. Contributions can be made to the Idaho Humanities Council, 217 W. State St. Boise, ID 83702 or to Friends of Minidoka Symposium Fund, PO Box 1085, Twin Falls, ID 83303.

Betty Sims, Bob's wife of more than 50 years, asked if I could crop a portrait I took of the two of them to use for his obituary. I was honored she wanted to use a picture I had taken to be the one he would be remembered by.

Photo by Teresa Tamura
Robert (Bob) Sims 1936 - 2015

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