Arts Advocate Jerry Hiura Passes at 72

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SAN JOSE — Dr. Jerrold Hiura, 72, passed away on Dec. 26 after bravely battling late-stage esophageal cancer.

Dr. Jerry Hiura

Born in Chicago, he moved with his family to San Jose when he was seven. At UC Berkeley, he earned BS degrees in both biology and physiologic optics. After earning an MA degree at Harvard, he earned his DDS in 1976 from Washington University in St. Louis.

Hiura joined his father at his San Jose dental practice soon after, and took over the practice in 1987. In 2008, he fulfilled his dream to expand Japantown Dental by moving it across the street to a larger, completely renovated space. He took quiet but profound pride in the evolution of his practice and in the development of his team.

As an active advocate for multicultural arts, Hiura spent his life passionately involved in bringing diversity to organizations at the local and state levels. He served as chair of the City of San Jose’s Arts Commission and as president of the Arts Council of Silicon Valley.

He co-founded the Contemporary Asian Theater Scene (CATS) and the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose (JCCsj). He helped establish the Three Japantown Landmarks Public Arts projects and Ikoinoba, quiet resting places, throughout Japantown.

He was on the Board of Trustees for the San Jose Museum of Art. As a board member for Chopsticks Alley Art, he examined the intersection between Japanese and Vietnamese American art and history. In 2002, he was appointed by Gov. Gray Davis to the California State Arts Council, where he served as vice chair.

As a dedicated artist himself, Hiura explored many forms of expression, including paintings and drawings ranging from whimsical to impressionist to portraiture using a variety of media, oils, watercolor and acrylics.

As an author, poet and editor, he published “The Hawk’s Well” (1986), a unique collection of Japanese American art and literature. He even dabbled in jewelry design and his pieces were sold by high-end retailers. He loved playing guitar and golf with family and friends.

He was predeceased by his father, Dr. Thomas Hiura. In addition to his wife Lucia, he is survived by his sister Barbara and his mother Dorothy. He also leaves behind his stepchildren, Audrey and Larry, and their spouses, Evan and Heather. He nurtured his four grandchildren: Graham, Chloe, Caden, and Carter. Dr. Hiura also leaves behind the team at Japantown Dental and the patient community they serve.

A celebration of life is planned for the spring/summer of 2020. In lieu of flowers, donate to: CATS (http://catsasiantheaterscene.org), San Jose Museum of Art (http://sjmusart.org), Japantown Community Congress of San Jose (http://jcc-sj.org) or Chopsticks Alley Art (http://chopsticksalleyart.org).

Statement from Reiko Iwanaga, CATS board member:

“Dr. Jerrold Hiura, universally known as Dr. Jerry, passed away on Dec. 26. Although his life might have seemed to be a dichotomy – technical and scientific dentist who exhibited artistic achievements in poetry, art, and music – Dr. Jerry’s eclectic personality blended his two sides well. In doing so, he left a legacy of philanthropy, cultural support and dental and artistic mentorship. Also, many of San Jose’s distinguished citizens and elected officials appreciated his role as their dentist/advisor.

“Jerry’s list of service were numerous and impressive: appointments to the California Arts Commission (vice chair) and the San Jose Arts Commission, on boards such as the San Jose Museum of Art and the Japantown Community Congress, director of the Sixth Street Mural project, programs at San Jose Jazz Festival and San Jose State University, and, most significantly, co-founder of Contemporary Asian Theatre Scene (CATS).

“When he, with Steve Yamaguma and Miki Hirabayashi, founded CATS, they envisioned and accomplished its mission to provide platforms for Asian American artists of various media. CATS has presented playwrights workshops, Asian Comedy Nights (Hasan Minhaj, Ali Wong on their ways up!), play readings, film festivals, and live performances.

“Silicon Valley Asian Pacific FilmFest is CATS’ latest iteration and, at a screening, Jerry was surprised with two awards: a commendation from the San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs, signed by all City Council members, and the Image Hero Award from SVAPFF/CATS. Numerous other acknowledgments had preceded these honors, but his wife, Lucia Cha, noted that he was especially moved by these – coming from dear and dedicated friends of the San Jose cultural community and his CATS cohorts.

“Jerry and Lucia have been strong advocates and generous financial supporters of many institutions and activities. In recognition of this commitment, CATS announced that ‘our cultural efforts will continue to be dedicated to the lifetime work and in memory of its co-founder, Dr. Jerry Hiura.’”

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