Bridgeport man sent to Japanese American internment camp celebrates 101st birthday
A Bridgeport man is celebrating more than just a birthday on Monday – he’s hitting a major milestone as he turns 101 years old.
News 12 Connecticut’s Frank Recchia sat down with John Tenn, born in 1922, to talk about his birthday celebration, which happened to fall during the first National Human Rights week being observed in the U.S.
Tenn, who shortened his name from "Tenn Kin Sing," is also part of a dark chapter in American history. He was sent to a World War II Japanese American internment camp in 1943, even though he is not of Japanese ancestry, but rather of Jamaican Chinese heritage.
With his eyes closed and working from memory, Tenn, a proud American, recited poetry on Monday – one of his favorite pastimes to do on his birthday.
"He's very pragmatic about things," said his son, John Tenn Jr.
Tenn Jr., a retired Bridgeport police detective, shared the values his father has taught him throughout the years including hard work and respect.
He says it's fitting that his dad's 101st birthday should fall during National Human Rights week – not just because his family has a rich history of promoting fair and equal treatment – as his father's contribution to the cause was born from working hard and living a peaceful life, despite the rocky start to his American experience.
"Before Rosa Parks got arrested for not giving up her seat, my aunt got arrested for not giving up her seat,” said Tenn Jr. “I'm still learning things from him, I mean at his age he's still able to teach certain things and I'm learning more about his life."
One of the lessons Tenn continues to teach his son is to have a life full of gratitude for the country that gave them citizenship. He said things have gotten better in the U.S. since he first moved here when there was still segregation around every corner.
On Tenn’s 101st birthday, his son couldn't be prouder or more grateful to be celebrating this milestone.
"I gotta' say it's amazing,” said Tenn Jr. “I can't say more, I'm blessed that he's my dad."
The family said they're grateful that the National Park Service is spending millions of dollars to educate future generations about the ill treatment of Asian Americans during WWII.