The first time I met Homer Yasui was in Seattle. It was the fall of 2016, and like so many momentous things in life, I never saw it coming.

I’d been hired to create something called a podcast. Unlike today, podcasts had yet to explode into the mainstream, so while I had creative freedom, I also had no roadmap. In fact, the only real parameter was the requirement that each episode be based on a topic from the upcoming season of Sense of Place. I barely had the budget to produce a single episode, but we didn’t know that at the time. So I looked at the schedule ahead and selected 4 topics: mountain search and rescue, tribal fishing, Woody Guthrie, and Japanese history in the Gorge. Of course, it’s the last of those that led me to Homer.

Homer was the first interview for the first episode of the podcast that came to be called, Hear in the Gorge. In fact, the title of the episode, Almost Home, is pulled directly from a story Homer shared about driving home to Hood River. During our 3-hour conversation, he shared so many stories – from farting in church to his father’s pursuit to become a “full-fledged American”. We laughed a lot and even cried some. Homer took the time to share his story with me and I knew as soon as it was over that I needed to respond with equal care. I walked away with a clarity of purpose that has guided me ever since.  

I have written or shared about Homer’s impact on my life before. I’m sure I will again. Often though, it feels inadequate, so I just try to live and work in a way that reflects what I have learned. Homer passed away earlier this year on July 25th. Today, December 28th, 2023 he would have turned 99 years old. As I think about him and re-listen to his stories, I hope the impact he had on me might extend, even just a bit, to you. Happy birthday, Homer.

Almost Home podcast

Hearing from Homer (podcast short)