Longtime BIJAC board member becomes memorial ranger

The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial has a new park ranger.

The memorial serves as a reminder of an ugly bit of local history, but also as a testament to the resilience of those who lived through such an unfortunate period of time.

Charles Beall, superintendent of Seattle-area National Park sites, said that it’s necessary to have a ranger present at such a historically important site.

“Having a park ranger present helps communicate the site’s significance in our national consciousness, and we’re really proud to step up there and be a part of sharing this story,” Beall said.

The Bainbridge memorial, Beall said, is not the only one of its kind in the nation.

“Since the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial is part of the National Park system, as a satellite unit of Minidoka National Historic Site, we want to celebrate that designation and be part of the community sharing the story,” he explained.

The memorial received its first seasonal park ranger in September 2015 with Andrew Wiseman. Wiseman returned to the post in 2016 but due to health issues could not return this year. Without anyone else to quickly take Wiseman’s place, one of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association’s (BIJAEMA) board members decided to step up and take the reins.

Ron Coglon has not only served on the board of BIJAEMA — which worked to construct the memorial at the park — but he also served on the board of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, which focuses on the education and history of the internment.

“I thoroughly enjoy it because you meet people from all around the world,” Coglon said. “You meet all kinds of cultures and individual thinking. It’s a full-bodied experience.”

In addition to knowing the island’s history, it’s also Coglon’s duty to have people skills, of which, Beall said, he has no short supply.

“He’s certainly a people person; he’s a great conversationalist, very open and warm and a great greeter and host. He can make people feel welcome at the site, which is exactly what we want from park rangers,” Beall said.

“It’s become very humbling, very enlightening and I can’t help but think anybody would grow with this kind of a job,” Coglon said. “The message that they’re trying to get across is a universal message, and that’s not hard to get behind and advance in your discussions. Everything is sort of perfect, in that sense.

“I can’t think of a better job, I really can’t.”

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