RAFU STAFF AND WIRE SERVICE REPORTS
Nao Takasugi, who overcame the indignity of being forced out of school to be interned during World War II, then went on to serve as mayor of Oxnard and in the California State Assembly, has died at the age of 87.
His son, Ronald, said that the former state assemblyman died from complications of a stroke late Thursday, after being in poor health for some time.
“We all in the back of our minds knew it was coming because he’d been ill for a few weeks but we were hopeful,” Ronald told the Ventura County Star on Saturday. “We had just talked to the doctors Thursday afternoon and the doctors mentioned he was doing very well and you need to start thinking about bringing him home.”
He added that although his father had been unable to speak following the stroke, he was communicating through hand and eye movements.
Born in Oxnard on April 5, 1922, Nao Takasugi worked at his family’s grocery store, the Asahi Market, before enrolling at UCLA. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the order to round up and confine Americans of Japanese descent, Takasugi and his family were forced to liquidate all their property and eventually were imprisoned at the Gila River internment camp in Arizona.
The Takasugis managed to keep their store, however, by leaving it in the care of Ignacio Carmona, one of the store employees. Upon their return after the war, Carmona handed them the keys and they resumed operations. With the building under family ownership, the Asahi Market remains in business today.
While at Gila River, Takasugi was offered a chance to leave the camp and attend an East Coast university. He graduated from Temple in 1945 and went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946.
Once he returned to California, he found that his family needed him to help operate the store. He was known to kid that his MBA stood for “Master of Butchery Arts.”
Frustrated by Oxnard’s rejection of the family’s plan to install a new sign for their market, Takasugi felt the city need someone to help with streamlining business dealings. In 1976, he was elected to the Oxnard City Council and served mayor from 1982 to 1992.
In the state assembly, he represented Oxnard as a Republican before being termed out in 1998. At the time of his election, he was the only Asian American in the legislature. He was reelected in 1994 and 1996.
After suffering a heart attack shortly before leaving Sacramento, Takasugi decided not to return to public office. However, at the urging of Oxnard Harbor District President Jesse Ramirez, he ran for and was elected to a seat on the board of the Oxnard Harbor District in 2000, and remained on that body until his retirement last year.
Takasugi’s family was featured in Tom Brokaw’s 1998 book, “The Greatest Generation,” which focused on those who lived during and through the War. He told Brokaw that he chose not to be bitter nor regretful about what had befallen his family in the hysteria of wartime.
“I find that I am compelled to remember the best– not the worst–of that time. 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 said.
Nao Takasugi is survived by his wife of 57 years, Judy; and their five children, Scott, Russell, Ron, Tricia and Lea. An official at Garcia Mortuary in Oxnard said that funeral arrangements are pending.