Frederick "Fred" Shizuo Matsuo was born on March 4, 1926, in New Westminster, British Columbia to Shizue and Tatsuo Matsuo. The family included three other children, two brothers, Ruichi (Bob) and Isamu (Sam) and a sister, Midori. The family resided in both White Rock and Duncan, British Columbia.
Following Canada's declaration of war against Japan in 1941, the Matsuos moved to Mount Lehman, B.C. to stay with relatives. Under the War Measures Act, Canada interned 21,000 Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia and moved them inland deeming them security risks. Japanese men between the ages of 18 and 45 were to be sent to logging or road camps in Northern Ontario or, they could stay with their families and be interned in either Alberta or Manitoba to work on sugar beet/grain farms. The Matsuo family opted to stay together and work on a farm.
The family arrived at Winnipeg's Canadian Pacific Railway station in April, of 1942. Waiting in the station were the Manitoba farmers looking for labourers. Many of the farms in Manitoba, harboured anti-Japanese sentiments but, the Matsuos were chosen by an empathetic German farming family from Petersfield who themselves were, facing discrimination in Canada. Threshing and growing sugar beets was difficult, back breaking work, but by the end of the first sugar beet and grain harvest, the family had proven that they were dependable, hard workers and were accepted and felt at home in the community. Nevertheless, their mail was still censored, and travel restrictions were still imposed.
Of his experience during this period of time, Fred has written: “I firmly believe that living through experiences from this period of time have [sic] been a great benefit in evaluating my personal goals and values. It helped me to further understand some of the more important aspects of our lives such as the true meaning of love, compassion, forgiveness, caring and giving.”
In 1945, after the war, the family moved to Selkirk, Manitoba. Having missed two years of education, Fred and his sister returned to high school. They both excelled and graduated in 1946 despite discriminatory treatment by the school. Soon after, the family moved to Winnipeg. Fred inquired about enrolling in a chartered accountancy program. Once again, he faced more discrimination and was informed that the program did not accept students of Japanese descent. Undaunted, Fred registered for first year commerce at United College, University of Winnipeg. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to complete his degree, having to drop out of school in 1947 to help provide for his parents and sister, when his mother became ill.
Fred worked for Anthes Foundry for a few months until he found work with Ariza Construction Inc. He worked for Ariza’s for four years, attending evening classes at St. John’s, Kelvin, and Daniel McIntyre high schools to obtain his architectural drafting qualification. From 1950 to 1952, Fred worked for E & M Drafting Services. It was here that he met Jim Searle who would prove pivotal to Fred’s career.
Jim took Fred to Smith Carter Architects (now Architecture49), where he worked for 39 years from 1952-1991. Originally hired as a draftsman, Fred would work his way up to becoming one of Smith Carter’s most-respected project managers, overseeing construction on many of Winnipeg’s iconic buildings: Air Canada; the Bank of Montreal; Great West Life Headquarters; and the Trizec Towers among many others.
Fred married Alena Takatsu in 1954 and they had five children: Glenn, Colleen, Howie, Randy and Cameron. He retired in 1991.
Fred was deeply involved with the Japanese community for many years, becoming President of MJCCA, the Manitoba Japanese Canadian Cultural Association (now JCAM, the Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba) in 1953. For 18 years, he served as a board member and used his experience as an architectural project manager for the benefit of the association.
Fred was brother-in-law to Henry Takatsu, a draftsperson for the Winnipeg firm Pratt Lindgren Snider Tomcej and Associates, and uncle to Mr. Takatsu’s son, Interior Designer/artist Ryan Takatsu. He was also uncle to Sandra Sasaki, Interior Designer/Design Educator, and her brother, Rod Sasaki, Architect/Interior Designer/Warehouse Artworks Owner, children of George Choetsu Sasaki.