‘Ultimate volunteer,’ JACL’s Greg Marutani, dies

Greg Marutani, 72, of San Francisco, died Nov. 27, 2019, the Japanese American Citizens League said in a statement. The civil rights organization recognized the longtime chair of their National Education Committee at the 2019 JACL Convention in Salt Lake City.

“Marutani was instrumental in training hundreds of teachers on how to utilize the story of Japanese American incarceration in their lesson plans to teach civil rights. He emphasized that the Japanese American story was one not only one of egregious wrong, but also of how to do things the right way, to seek redress within the Constitution, and continue to fight injustice today. In addition to his role as a speaker and instructor, he championed key JACL initiatives such as the Power of Words, to reframe the incarceration experience in a more truthful nomenclature,” the statement said.

The organization described Marutani as being “well loved and respected for his tireless involvement” in San Francisco’s Japantown.

“Greg Marutani was in many ways the ultimate volunteer. You knew whatever he was working on would be important to the community. His efforts were always focused and he got things done efficiently. He was always working on something for the good of others. I don’t ever recall him being idle,” San Francisco JACL Chapter President John Hayashi said.

“Marutani, in accepting JACL’s highest service award the Ruby Pin, effused the modesty and humility that permeated his service in thanking the many educators he had worked with in his role as chair of the NEC. He was known for his work locally and nationally and will be fondly remembered by many. The national JACL staff and board will miss Greg’s regular presence in the office and at board meetings,” the statement said.

Marutani was often seen volunteering to help pound mochi (rice cakes) at local mochitsuki (rice pounding) events in San Francisco’s Japantown.

A memorial service is pending.

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