SAN FRANCISCO — Masaru “Mas” Kawaguchi passed away peacefully on May 9 at the age of 92.
Born on Nov. 6, 1925, Kawaguchi attended George Washington High School in San Francisco but was unable to graduate with his classmates because he and his family were incarcerated along with other Japanese Americans during World War II, first at Tanforan Race Track in San Bruno and then at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah.
Kawaguchi later served in the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service as an interrogator in occupied Japan and retired as a lieutenant colonel. Graduating from University of Michigan in engineering, he worked as a registered civil engineer for the State of California, Department of Transportation (now Caltrans).
He was active in community activities, including serving as chairperson of the Taraval Police Community Forum; president of Parkside District Improvement Club; cubmaster and scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 12; and member of VFW, American Society of Civil Engineers, San Francisco Gem and Mineral Society, and Pine United Methodist Church.
Kawaguchi often spoke to high school classes about his wartime experience, including the fact that his Issei father, who emigrated to San Francisco in 1906, wasn’t allowed to travel outside the immediate neighborhood after Pearl Harbor and was unable to maintain his gardening business.
“By March, we were gone,” said he told The San Francisco Chronicle. “Nobody came to help us. Not the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. Nobody. We were left to fend for ourselves.”
In 1997, Kawaguchi took part in a ceremony in which the San Francisco Unified School District presented diplomas to Nisei students whose education was interrupted, or ended, when they were uprooted from their homes.
In 2012, he was recognized at the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival’s Senior Appreciation Brunch and a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in San Francisco hosted by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Preceded in death by his loving wife, Ida, two brothers and four sisters, Kawaguchi is survived by sons Todd (Kate) and Jeffrey (Pam) and daughter Mari; grandsons Tyler and Bryce; stepchildren, great-grandchildren and many nephews and nieces.
A celebration of life was held June 16 at Pine UMC. The family requests that memorial donations be made to Kawaguchi Endowment Fund at Pine UMC, 426 33rd Ave., San Francisco, CA 94121, or to a charity of one’s choice.