‘A Life’s Ride’: new bench is memorial
In retrospect, it seems obvious:
Andrew Yokoyama was a lifelong West Sacramentan, a farmer, an enthusiastic bicyclist. Why not commemorate his life with a bicycle-themed memorial right along the road so many cyclists take across the Tower Bridge? And why not build that memorial, as much as possible, out of implements and tools from his Southport farm?
On Friday morning, that vision came to be. Next to the Tower Bridge and the state “ziggurat” building, artist Terrence Martin supervised as his one-ton “A Life’s Ride” sculpture was bolted into the concrete. Passersby began sending curious glances almost immediately.
Cathy Yokoyama, Andy’s surviving wife, estimated that Martin had made the piece using “about two-thirds” of the material from the Yokoyama family farm in Southport – discs, spacers, tractor wheel parts and so forth.
“We asked him to use parts from the farm, if he was good with that idea,” said Cathy Yokoyama. “He was.”
Family friend Carol Davis was instrumental in choosing artist Terrence Martin – whose “Jagged Edge” art studio is located near the west end of West Capitol Avenue in West Sacramento. Davis also coordinated plans for the bench with the City of West Sacramento, because its new home was to be on city park property.
“Carol really was the one who organized the whole thing,” added Yokoyama.
“We told (Martin) we wanted a bench,” she recalled. “Carol had seen his benches at the Sacramento Zoo and at Fountains, in Roseville. We were thinking of the form of a bicycle because we were thinking of putting it along the bike path, and also because Andy really enjoyed biking.”
Andy Yokoyama was the grandson of an immigrant from Japan who farmed in Sacramento’s Pocket area, according to Dena Kirtley of the West Sacramento Parks and Recreation Department (Kirtley took the sculpture through the city permit process).
Andy’s father was placed in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, then set up as a farmer in West Sacramento.
Andy himself was born in 1951. He graduated from UC Davis and joined his dad on the farm, growing green onions and spinach on a small family farm near Linden and South River road, and also farming other land leased in Southport. In 2000, he took a job with the state, but continued farming on weekends. Yokoyama planted a final crop of wheat and safflower in 2011 as he became increasingly ill. He died in January, 2012.
“Some of the local farmers helped organize and get that harvest in,” said Cathy Yokoyama. “We knew about his illness for several years, but he was probably (seriously) sick for about a year.”
The new sculpture has the form of a bike – complete with handlebars and a seat. It comes with a pre-rusted finish, explained Martin, and all the sharp edges have been painstakingly ground down for safety. The “bike” cradles a bench with a seat made of steel cylinders.
Yokoyama says a number of people chipped in to pay for it, although she hasn’t yet seen the final cost submitted by Martin.
“I used donations from (Andy’s) work, from my dinner group and my work,” she said. “I work for the California State teachers’ retirement system, in the big tower building nearby.”
She said she’s quite happy with how the memorial turned out. Within a couple of days of its installation, the sculpture had experienced – and recovered from – its first misadventure.
“It got tagged (with graffiti) over the weekend,” Yokoyama reported Monday. “Someone had written their name in blue. I reported it to the parks department. They are just going to clean it up every time, until whoever does it gets tired of it.”
You can see “A Life’s Ride,” and sit for a spell, at River Walk Park next to the “ziggurat.”