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LaDonna Zall worked to establish the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. (Photo courtesy of David Ono and Jeff Macintyre)

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation will hold a service celebrating the life of curator emeritus LaDonna Zall, who passed away last month. The service will take place at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center on Saturday at 10 a.m., as part of the annual Heart Mountain Pilgrimage. The community is invited to attend.

As a young girl, Zall witnessed the last train leave Heart Mountain in 1945, carrying Japanese Americans who had been held at the camp back to the West Coast. The experience remained with Zall for the rest of her life. Shortly after the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation was established in 1996, Zall joined the effort to preserve the site of the former camp and tell the stories of those incarcerated here. Zall played a key role in organizing and documenting the Foundation’s artifact collections, and led some of the first tours of the Heart Mountain site. Zall passed away on June 22 at the age of 87.

At the service on Saturday, speakers Joyce Harkness, Sam Mihara and Douglas Nelson will reflect on Zall’s life and her achievements. The service will conclude with the presentation of the LaDonna Zall Compassionate Witness Award, an honor created by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation to recognize individuals whose families were not incarcerated during World War II, but who nonetheless have worked to expand awareness of the Japanese American incarceration. Cody native Pete Simpson will receive the award this year.

Simpson, a member of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation board of directors, also experienced the camp firsthand, when he visited it as a Boy Scout in the 1940s. 

“This is one of the greatest honors of my life,” said Simpson. “I prize my association with LaDonna and the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation board. My visits to the camp were a time in my young life when I learned something about ambiguity and honor.”

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, operated by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, tells the story of some 14,000 Japanese Americans unjustly incarcerated in Wyoming from 1942 to 1945. The center is located between Cody and Powell on Highway 14A. For more information about the event, call (307) 754-8000 or visit heartmountain.org.

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