Friday, February 14, 2003
Jensen woman plans to return 300-year-old tapestry
By Beth Underwood
recalled an evening 14 years ago, when she and
resident and martial artist Dennis Fritchie sat talking over a couple of beers.
He told her of a tapestry he had acquired. It came from the
, which was bombarded for 83 days during World War II, and was brought to the
by a former Marine who served in the war. As the battles of war began to
smolder, the tapestry was apparently on of the few remnant s of the Okinawan
A student of martial arts for 19 years
at the time, Mrs. Hess listened intently. As Mr. Fritchie continued to describe
the tapestry, its symbols seemed to match with her style of karate.
“Naturally, that sparked my
interest,” said Mrs. Hess, who lives in
. “So a few weeks later I asked to see it.”
Although the two logos on the tapestry
were not identified at the time, the
resident and her martial arts master Jack Summers decided to procure the
tapestry. Mrs. Hess promised herself that eventually, she would return the piece
to its rightful owners.
Since purchasing the scroll, she’s
traveled t o the island numerous times with Mr. Summers, and currently, Mrs.
Hess continues her research with the people of
. With the help of eight trips to the island, and continuing communications with
’s departments of history and education, she continues to close in on the
scroll’s rightful owners. Although some questions remain unanswered, she does
know that the logos, or mons, represent the seal of the Tokugawa family, who
ruled Okinawa from 1603 to the mid-1800s, and says she estimates the tapestry
dates back to the late 1600s.
She realizes the significance of the
possession, and although prospective buyers have tried to purchase the tapestry,
Mrs. Hess has no intentions of selling it.
never sell it, ” she said, “because I believe it belongs back to the people
. This is so important to their history —
like owning something George Washington or Abe Lincoln signed.”
In order to return it in a way befitting
its importance, she’s heading back to
in April, to pave the way for the Friendship Tour 2004. The tour is comprised
of women — all of whom are martial artists — who will travel from around the
world in order to present the tapestry to the people of
in April 2004.So far, 32 women have pledged to make the journey. Because the
women live in various parts of the world, some are unable to make the t rip. But
if all agree, the group will likely seek corporate sponsors to help with costs.
“There’s never been a group this
large — well, over five people — who have gone over there like this,” she
said. “This is important to the history of
karate, the history of martial arts, women in this style of karate, and the
in general, notwithstanding the martial arts.”
But that’s always been part of her
plan. Find the owners. Return it to them properly. And leading the women will be
Mr. Summers — himself a veteran of the war — who will present the tapestry
back to the people of
“It need to be returned correctly, “
she said. “I just felt like it was fitting for a veteran to give it back. This
is exactly where it belongs.”