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Community Voices

How the Garden Builds Community

Portland Japanese Garden is privileged to have a diverse and loyal group of members, volunteers, and donors. Each has a unique history that compels them to give back to their community (whether that be the City of Portland, immediate circle of friends, or otherwise) through their Garden experience. We’re pleased to introduce you to a few of these supporters. We hope their stories inspire you as much as they have inspired us.

Doug de Weese, Treasurer, Portland Japanese Garden Board of Trustees

A Portland native, de Weese has a deep connection to Portland Japanese Garden. de Weese’s mother, Kuniko, is from Japan, and his father, Bill, was one of the local business and civic leaders who worked to create the Garde n in the early 1960s. de Weese was moved when he recently saw archival footage of his father with Professor Tono, the Garden’s original designer; a vivid reminder of how the Garden has been a part of his family’s life for over 60 years.

When de Weese returned to Portland in 2016, after many years working and living in Thailand, reconnecting with the Garden was a top priority. “My dad really valued civic duty—he was deeply involved with key local organizations (Portland Public Schools, OMSI, the Japanese Garden) to help Portland grow and prosper. He also had deep business ties and love for Japan and its culture. I’m honored to serve on the Garden’s Board of Trustees and be able to follow in my dad’s footsteps.” de Weese is also a new father, and with his wife Bee, they hope that Portland Japanese Garden will continue to be a place where the next generation can feel the deep connection to both Japan and Portland.

Doug de Weese’s father, Bill de Weese, and Professor Tono, the Garden’s original designer, survey the land concept ideas for the future layout.

David Ferguson, New Golden Crane Member

Ferguson first visited the Garden his second weekend in Portland, during winter of 2017. Having moved here from Utah, he was living in the heart of a city for the first time despite living in six other states and two small towns in Germany. Portland Japanese Garden was a tranquil retreat where Ferguson could experience a gateway to nature. After his very first visit, Ferguson bought a membership and came back every few months, enjoying how the Garden changed with the seasons.

Ferguson shares, “It’s one of the most meaningful places to me in Oregon.” That’s why in spring of 2020, when the pandemic was causing turmoil for the Garden and cultural institutions across Oregon, Ferguson chose to make a gift to Portland Japanese Garden and join the Golden Crane Recognition Society. “I knew the Garden was at risk, and I wanted to support a place where people can go to find peace.”

Ferguson continues to visit often and enjoys bringing friends, especially when they’ve never experienced anything like a Japanese garden before. He likes to show them how every space is designed with a purpose, shaped by generations of thought, and maintained with a sense of tradition.

“Community is what happens when people come together to create opportunities to work, learn, and grow. The Garden does that by bringing together people of all backgrounds, to be a place of great beauty and peace, fostering inclusion, understanding, and collaboration.”

– Doug de Weese

Aase Kendall, Volunteer and GoldenCrane Member

After meeting her husband, an Oregonian, at school in Switzerland, Kendall moved to the United States from Denmark in 1949 and to Oregon in 1950. An avid gardener and garden lover, Kendall was very happy to hear about Portland Japanese Garden’s construction in 1963. She had visited Japan and was so impressed by their gardens. Kendall became a member of the Garden in 1978 and a tour guide in 1980. She became one of the organization’s first volunteers, running the volunteer program. She also sat on the Garden Resource Committee for several years. In 2021, Kendall celebrated her 41st anniversary as a tour guide.

She says Portland Japanese Garden is “so peaceful and so lovely” and is a very special place for her. The Garden has created the opportunity for Kendall to make many friends and connections, and she’s enjoyed getting to know the gardeners and all the staff through the years. When asked what her favorite space is, Kendall answers, “I love the whole place, but it’s a toss-up between the Natural Garden and the Flat Garden.” She says to all her friends, “You are a member, aren’t you?! You really should be.”