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HANFORD — The community gathered this weekend to celebrate the birthday of one of its pillars.

Hundreds met on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the First Presbyterian Church in Hanford to wish Naomi Tagawa a happy 99th birthday.

Earlier in the week, Tagawa was surprised at a Hanford City Council meeting with the news that the day would be her own, as Mayor Sue Sorensen proclaimed Saturday, Feb. 23 as Naomi Tagawa Day in the City.

At Tagawa’s party at the church of which she has been a member for years, dozens lined up for the chance to wish her “happy birthday” or to meet her for the first time.

Even after meeting with people for close to three hours, she was still all smiles.

“All of this has been just awesome,” she said motioning to the church’s Fellowship Hall, filled with friends, fellow church members and well-wishers.

In the hall, celebrants enjoyed ice cream and tea provided by the Superior Dairy and L.T. Sue Co. Tea Room, respectively, while taking in moments and accomplishments from Tagawa’s life.

Displayed were dresses and knitted items created by Tagawa as well as hand-drawn idea for clothing she designed while attending the San Francisco Design School, where she earned her degree.  Also displayed were photos and news clippings pertaining to the Kings Hand Laundry Building, which Tagawa’ father opened in 1916.

The First Presbyterian Church and the China Alley Preservation Society are currently raising funds to restore the historic building, located in what was once the Japanese section of Hanford on Green Street.

The funds will go toward establishing a foundation for the building which currently rests on the ground and to eventually turn it into a museum preserving the art and history of Tagawa’s family and all of the families that made up Hanford’s Japanese community.

“This is the kick off for her 100th year and the push to save the laundry building,” fellow church member Sheri Winterowd told the Sentinel. “It’s nice to celebrate this special time for Naomi.”

Winterowd, the wife of Pastor Tony Winterowd, addressed those in attendance saying that the event was a way to “celebrate Naomi’s contributions to the community and the lives she has touched.” The packed hall then sang “Happy Birthday to You” to the guest of honor.

Those interested in donating can do so by sending a check to the China Alley Preservation Society Laundry Building Project, P.O. Box 728, Hanford, CA 93232.

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