Kay K. Fukushima, past president of the the International Association of Lions Clubs, died on Nov. 30 of cancer. He was 75.
Fukushima was chosen to lead the international Lions at the group’s annual conference in 2002. He served a year as president of the world’s biggest nongovernmental organization, with 1.35 million members in more than 200 countries.
Lions Clubs organize and support many types of service projects, including fighting blindness, helping seniors and hungry people, and caring for the environment.
He traveled to 78 countries and met with many leaders, including Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Pope John Paul II, Prince Charles of Great Britain and Prince Rainier of Monaco. Under his leadership, the Lions reorganized clubs in China that had been disbanded during the communist revolution and started their first club in Vatican City. He also visited and supported organizational improvements in African countries.
An insurance executive, Fukushima joined the Sacramento Senator Lions Club in 1965 and was named president in 1972. He led the group’s efforts on many local service projects, including Fairytale Town improvements at William Land Park, fundraising for the Sacramento Zoo and programs to help students, young athletes and visually impaired people.
He rose through the Lions ranks to many leadership positions, including district governor, California-Nevada chairman and international board member. He chaired the group’s 1988 convention in Denver and received many top Lions awards.
Born in 1937 in Sacramento, Fukushima grew up near Clarksburg and Courtland in the Sacramento River Delta. His parents were farmers who were forced to leave home with their two sons for the Tule Lake internment camp during World War II.
He studied electronics at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and was drafted into the Army to work on a booster rocket for space flights. After his discharge, he transferred to California State University Sacramento and earned a marketing degree in 1965.
He opened an insurance agency and grew the business to include 16 branch offices. He lived in Sacramento and had two children with his wife of 47 years.
Fukushima was active in fundraising for charities and health programs, including Easter Seals and UC Davis pediatric services. He encouraged Lions Clubs to expand beyond their traditional support for vision programs to include other community needs.
He is survived by his wife, Denise; two children and four grandchildren. Memorial services were held on Dec. 14 in Sacramento. A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, Jan. 13, at 2 p.m. at SkyRose Chapel, Rose Hills, 3888 Workman Mill Road, Whittier. For information, contact Larry Dicus at (562) 699-4600.