OBITUARY: Nao Takasugi

Former California state Assemblyman and Oxnard Mayor Nao Takasugi passed away from stroke-related complications on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009 at the St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. He was 87.

Takasugi, a Republican, spent six years in the California state Assembly, until his term limit expired in 1998. Prior to this, he had served on the Oxnard City Council (1976-1982) and then as his hometown’s mayor for the next 10 years, until he left for the Legislature in 1992. At the time of his passing, Takasugi was a member of the Oxnard Harbor District Board of Directors, which he joined in 2001, as well as the Japanese American Citizen’s League.

Floyd Mori, national executive director of the JACL and a former California state Assemblyman and mayor, called Takasugi a dedicated public servant who gave much to his country and to the Japanese American community.

“He was the beginning of the present resurgence of Asian American and Pacific Islander legislators among California state elected officials,” Mori said. “It was a privilege to have known him. He will be greatly missed.  We appreciate all he has done and offer our condolences to his family.”

Born on April 5, 1922, in Oxnard, Takasugi was valedictorian of Oxnard High School. He later attended UCLA to study business.

However, his studies were cut short with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Takasugi, his parents and four sisters — like more than 120,000 Japanese Americans — were forced to leave their home by Executive Order 9066. First sent to the Tulare County fairgrounds, where they slept in renovated horse stalls, the family was eventually moved to a concentration camp at Gila River, Ariz. Takasugi was 19 years old at the time.

Through the aid of American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, Takasugi was able to leave the camp in 1943 and complete his studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. He graduated in 1945 and the following year enrolled at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

The family business, the Asahi Market, remained open under the watch of a friend until the Takasugi family was released in 1945. Takasugi was unable to find employment in Philadelphia, where, he said, accounting firms feared anti-Japanese sentiments. So he returned to Oxnard to help run the grocery store. Takasugi would joke that his M.B.A. was a really a “master of butchery arts.”

Takasugi was profiled in Tom Brokaw’s 1998 book, “The Greatest Generation,” which documented the experiences of Americans who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II. “I find that I am compelled to remember the best — not the worst — of that time,” Takasugi was quoted as saying. “To focus not on the grave deprivation of rights which beset us all, but rather on the countless shining moments of virtue that emerged from the shadows of that dark hour.”

Takasugi is survived by Judy, his wife of 57 years, and his children Scott, Russell, Ron, Tricia and Lea. Services will be held on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 1 p.m. at the Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard.

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