Earl Shizuo Santo, former owner of Santo Market, passed away June 24, 2022. He was 91.
Santo was born March 1, 1931 in San Jose. In 1942, at the age of 11, Santo, along with his family, was forcibly removed from their home and sent to the Heart Mountain, Wyo. concentration camp.
According to the family, after they returned to San Jose, Santo attended and graduated from San Jose High School in 1948. He worked at Santo Market, started by his uncle George Y. Santo, while attending San Jose State University.
Santo was drafted into the U.S. Army from 1952-1954, serving in Washington, D.C. during the Korean War. According to the family, he returned to San Jose after serving in the army to work as the head butcher, while learning how to keep the books.
Santo took over the market from his uncle and he continued to help out at the business even after handing the reigns to his eldest son Mark around 2007. His youngest daughter, Leslie Kitazumi, said her father never retired from working at the store, helping out until the 2020 lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Mark Santo, his father enjoyed fishing and watching his grandchildren participate in sports and other activities. He was an avid gardener and golfer. He said his father was a helpful and gracious person the community knew through their family business.
Tamiko Rast, president of the Japantown Business Association, said the elder Santo was a beloved member of the Japantown community. “He, with his entire family, has left an indelible mark on our neighborhood,” she said in an e-mail to the Nichi Bei Weekly. “He will certainly be missed, and the collective community sends the Santo family our condolences.”
Pam Yoshida, president of the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose, also spoke to his giving nature in an e-mail to the Nichi Bei Weekly.
“Even though he will be missed, the image of Mr. Santo inside the Santo Market wearing his green apron, attending events in Japantown with his lovely wife, children and grandchildren will be embedded in my mind,” Yoshida said.
Santo is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Helen; children, Lynne (George) Yamaichi, Mark, Scott (Tina), and Leslie (Brad) Kitazumi; along with a number of grand children. He is predeceased by his parents Seizo and Taka Santo. The family plans to hold private services.