July 1, 1932 – Dec. 21, 2022

ODA, JOHN S. was born July 1, 1932, in Santa Barbara, CA, the oldest of four children. In 1943, John and his family were relocated to Gila River, Arizona, as part of the incarceration of Japanese-Americans into prison camps. After the war his family migrated to Long Beach, California, where they lived in government trailers, and his dad developed a gardening service.

Following his graduation from high school, John worked with his father in the gardening business and then enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 19. He was stationed for a number of years in Las Vegas, where he learned to enjoy poker and attended shows. He also served in Okinawa, Japan, where he played on softball teams at his base. He would frequently tell the story of teaching other servicemen how to use hashi.

Following his four years in the service, John attended Long Beach City College on the G.I. Bill, sang in the choir, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1958. John completed his degree at UC Berkeley, where he managed the Asian-American residence Euclid House, joined the men’s Glee Club, and loved attending Cal Bears football games.

After receiving his degree in History, John studied law at Hastings College. While at law school, he tended bar at San Francisco’s Bush Garden, and it was there that he met his wife, Nancie Uyeno.

He was smitten from the start and after a quick courtship, the two were married on October 8, 1961. In 1965, they bought a home in North Berkeley and lived there with Joyce and Todd, Nancie’s two children from her previous marriage. In 1969, Shawn, the last addition to the family, was born.

John worked for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office from 1964-1986, where he was Assistant District Attorney for nearly 13 years. Each day he left the house armed with a hand-packed lunch by Nancie. In 1986, John was appointed as a judge for the City of Berkeley Municipal Court. He served his initial term, but failed in his attempt at re-election. He didn’t mind, always maintaining that law was more important to him than a political career. Afterwards, he was appointed to the State of California Workers Compensation Board in San Francisco, and later in Orange County. Upon retiring, John and Nancie moved to South Lake Tahoe and built a beautiful home on a quiet street, surrounded by national forest, with sweeping vistas of the nearby mountains and pines.

Nancie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007 and when her condition worsened, the couple returned to the Bay Area. Eventually they moved to the Memory Care unit at Sunrise of Oakland Hills, where she could receive better care. Always the devoted spouse, John lived with Nancie until her illness required him to move upstairs into the Assisted Living community for the final few months of her life. Nancie passed on January 16, 2018, and John continued to live at Sunrise until the summer of 2022.

In September 2022, due to his recent diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia, John moved to Rosewood Home and received loving care from Araceli and Mencito. In spite of his quickly deteriorating health issues, thankfully John could still enjoy a good sashimi dinner, reading the paper, watching sports, and listening to opera until the very end.

As he aged, John spoke more and more readily about his happy memories of singing with the Cal Glee Club and his lifelong love of opera. As a high school student while on gardening jobs with his father, he said he listened to opera on the car radio during his lunch break. And even in his later years, he continued to blast operas from his Bose stereo. One night as we listened, he said, “I just love to turn it up real loud, close my eyes, and let the music wash over me.” We were all in awe that our father, even at 90-years-old, could still experience such joy and appreciation. John was such a diligent and hardworking man, who overcame adversity, thrived in his career, built a safe and happy home, and was surrounded by family who loved him. His love of life came easily to him partly because he was easy to please, but also because he was a genuinely good man – a lover of good food, drink, music, sports, poker, and most of all his family. He will be lovingly remembered and deeply missed.

John is survived by his sister and brother-in-law Yuriko and Ken Sawada; his sister-in-law Sadie Oda; his children, Shawn Oda, Todd Uyeno and his wife Kathy Uyeno, and Joyce Uyeno; and his six grandchildren, Dan Uyeno, Jeff Uyeno, Alex Uyeno, Greg Uyeno, Jordan Oda Beck, and Franny Oda Beck.

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