Those who knew him best say he touched countless lives in Walnut and beyond.
Now, a framed photo of a smiling Michael Miyamoto bathed in sunlight will greet visitors entering the Walnut Teen Center Gymnasium.
And residents walking the trails around Suzanne Park will pass by a Japanese maple tree planted in the late teen’s honor.
Family and friends gathered Friday at the teen center and at the park to honor Miyamoto, who died Nov. 1.
For 11 years, the 18-year-old battled acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also known as acute lymphocytic leukemia of ALL, a form of cancer that attacks the blood and bone marrow.
In December, the city honored the teen with a proclamation for Michael Miyamoto Day. During that honor, which fell on what would have been Michael’s 19th birthday, his dad Lindsay Miyamoto requested that a photo of his son be put in the teen center and Mayor Mary Su announced intentions to plant a tree.
Three months later, both were being unveiled.
“He will forever be a beloved son of the city of Walnut,” Su said of Michael. “He made a difference in our world. That’s why we are here today.”
Mt. San Antonio College Trustee David Hall spoke of Michael, who had been a student there before he died.
"All we can do is live our lives in a way that reflects the values and way Michael (lived)," Hall said.
Parents Lindsay and Phoebe Miyamoto, as well as his sister Jaclyn, attended the unveiling.
“Michael knew that he was loved,” Phoebe said, “am I am so grateful for that.”
Lindsay Miyamoto said that Michael lived his life to the fullest with the activities he enjoyed and also remained vigilant about sharing his experiences at various Relay for Life events.
“He just had that zest for life and he just wanted to experience all that he could experience,” Lindsay said. “All the while he never lost sight of those things that were important to him.”
At Suzanne Park, a crowd gathered around a young Japanese maple tree, its maroon leaves and branches swaying in the spring breeze.
“We are going to call this tree Michael,” Su said. “This tree is a beautiful memory that you and I will cherish.”
Su said that community must now come by the park and make sure the tree stays well watered and fertilized. A plaque from the city is planned at the site as well, she added.
After the unveiling of the tree, family and friends took turns shoveling dirt around the base of the tree.
Julie Bujer, a family friend who took the photo of Michael that hangs in the teen center and helped organize the ceremony, has known the Miyamotos all Michael’s life.
Bujer said the family’s strength and love shaped Michael and are the reason so many in the community have embraced them.
“This is a testament to what kind of parents they are,” she said. “Their daughter is amazing and their son is leaving a legacy.”