By Michael B. Murphy
The ashes of former FSU student Asako Mazawa will be reinterred two and a half years after being removed from her personal on-campus memorial garden in May 2013.
Though not mentioned in the University’s advertisement for the event – which includes two emails sent out by Holloway, an ad appearing on the LED screen outside The McCarthy Center and an ad taken out in this issue of The Gatepost – the Nov. 12 Memorial Grove Dedication Ceremony will include Mazawa’s reinterring, according to Holloway.
The date was chosen so the ceremony would be part of the Week of Kindness, said Holloway.
A Japanese international student, Mazawa died on June 10, 1997. The summer before her senior year, on June 8, 1997, Mazawa was riding on the back of a motorcycle when the operator struck a car. The driver was killed within the hour of the accident and Mazawa was taken to Boston Medical Center where she was pronounced brain dead, according to a Boston Herald account.
On April 12, 1999, the University unveiled the “Asako Mazawa Memorial Garden” which was funded by a $5,000 donation the Mazawas made to Framingham State.
At the 1999 ceremony, portions of Asako Mazawa’s ashes were interred into the soil of the garden by her parents. The memorial garden also included a cherry tree, a small statue, flowers, shrubs and a placard that read “In Memory of Asako Mazawa. 1972-1997. Class of 1998,” according to the May 3, 2013 issue of The Gatepost.
Since their disinterring in 2013, the University has held the container that holds Mazawa’s ashes on the top shelf of a cabinet in the vice president of Enrollment and Student Development’s office.
When asked why Mazawa’s remains have been held in the office of the Vice President of Enrollment and Student Development since May of 2013, Associate Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning Warren Fairbanks said, “(former Vice President of Enrollment and Student Development) Susanne Conley was intimately involved in this. That’s why they went to her office. She wanted care and custody of them. President F. Javier Cevallos said it was “probably” Conley’s decision to store them in her office.
“She needed to put them in a safe place and ... you want to make sure you know where they are,” he said.
Cevallos added when he first proposed the idea of a memorial site, Conley informed him of Mazawa’s ashes.
“I didn’t know about Asako,” Cevallos said. “So when I talked to Susanne Conley about this, she goes, ‘Oh by the way, do you know about this,’ and I said, ‘No, I did not.’”
Lorretta Holloway, who has succeeded the retired Conley, said she was surprised to learn of their existence in her office.
“I mean, do I find it ... odd that it’s in this office? It was a surprise,” Holloway said.
When asked why the ashes have not been reinterred in nearly three years, several administrators cited the lengthy Hemenway Hall construction project and limited space on campus.
Dale Hamel, executive vice president, said in an email the University always planned to reinter the ashes once the Hemenway Hall construction was completed.
“[Mazawa’s memorial garden] was already something that existed on campus, but we had to remove it because of the construction,” Cevallos said. “So we have to put it back.”
According to Holloway, the new memorial for Mazawa will include a new placard as the original 1999 placard was lost in storage
When asked if holding Mazawa’s ashes in the vice president’s o]ce for two and a half years could be viewed as disrespectful, Holloway said, “What I’d say is that we’re trying to be as respectful as possible. That the continuous moving of it would be, I think, much more of a problem.”
Cevallos said, “Ideally, they should have been reinterred. But, there’s nothing we could do about it.
“It is a long time – there is no question. Three years is a long time. You know, certainly, I wish it could have been done faster,” Cevallos said. However, he added, reinterring the ashes prematurely may have led to them having to be moved again.
According to Cevallos, he has no knowledge of whether the Mazawa family has been noticed that Asako’s ashes have not yet been reinterred, nor is he aware if the family has been invited to the Memorial Grove Ceremony.
Holloway said she was “just assuming” that the family is aware that Asako’s ashes have not yet been buried. “I don’t have a document that said there’s a letter where she talked to them. ... That’s not something I know.”
In an email, Maureen Cupoli, who is Conley’s former secretary and Holloway’s current secretary, told The Gatepost that Conley is “fully retired from the University” and any questions regarding the Memorial Grove and the reinterring of Asako’s ashes should be directed toward Holloway.
Hamel said that the interring of Asako’s ashes in 1999 should not be referred to as a “burial.”
He said, “No religious ceremony occurred at this event as it was not a burial service. From my personal understanding, it is not uncommon for the Japanese to be cremated.”
In the May 3, 2013 issue of The Gatepost, Conley said she had been communicating with the Mazawas via a translator at the Japanese consulate in Boston. The University apologized for having to remove Mazawa’s remains, but invited them to a rededication ceremony in the fall of 2013.
In the article, according to Conley, the Mazawas declined FSU’s invitation.
“My understanding is that the parents, as well as the Japanese consulate, were contacted to see if they would like to attend any such event and they respectfully declined,” Hamel said.
According to Holloway, Conley invited the Mazawas to the Memorial Grove Ceremony, and the family wasn’t “really interested in coming.”
Richard Winslow, an adviser at the Consulate General of Japan in Boston, said in a telephone interview that a consulate stam member named Susan Gill recalls being contacted by the University in 2013 regarding how the University should go about respectfully disinterring the ashes of Mazawa.
However, “Susan was not asked to provide contact information. It was understood the University had the contact info with the family.”
According to the Consulate General of Japan in Boston’s website, its goal is to “work closely with the Japanese community and continue to provide consular and other services to Japanese nationals to ensure that they have a safe and comfortable sojourn in New England.”
Winslow said that the Consulate does not have any knowledge on how to contact the Mazawas.
He added he has no recollection, nor does anyone at the Consulate General of Japan in Boston, of being invited to any event at FSU.
“As far as a renewed attempt to rededicate the ashes within this year, I don’t have any knowledge about that,” Winslow said.