July 20, 2021
We are saddened to report the passing of Heart Mountain’s curator emeritus, LaDonna Zall. The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation will hold a service at the interpretive center celebrating the life of LaDonna. It will take place on Saturday, July 24 at 10 a.m., as part of the annual Heart Mountain Pilgrimage. The local community is invited to attend.
As a young girl, Zall witnessed the last train leave Heart Mountain in 1945, carrying Japanese Americans who had been held at the camp back to the West Coast. The experience remained with Zall for the rest of her life. Shortly after the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation was established in 1996, Zall joined the effort to preserve the site of the former camp and tell the stories of those incarcerated here. Zall played a key role in organizing and documenting the Foundation’s artifact collections, and led some of the first tours of the Heart Mountain site. Zall passed away on June 22 at the age of 87.
At the service on July 24, speakers Joyce Harkness, Sam Mihara, and Douglas Nelson will reflect on Zall’s life and her achievements. The service will conclude with the presentation of the LaDonna Zall Compassionate Witness Award, an honor created by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation to recognize individuals whose families were not incarcerated during World War II, but who nonetheless have worked to expand awareness of the Japanese American incarceration. Cody native Pete Simpson will receive the award this year. A recording of this live event can be seen HERE.
Simpson, a member of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation board of directors, also experienced the camp firsthand, when he visited it as a Boy Scout in the 1940s. “This is one of the greatest honors of my life,” said Simpson. “I prize my association with LaDonna and the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation board. My visits to the camp were a time in my young life when I learned something about ambiguity and honor.”
If you would like to honor the legacy of compassion that LaDonna left for Heart Mountain, donations can be made in her memory HERE.