Several community leaders and organizations have posted expressions of sadness over the passing of Little Tokyo Service Center Executive Director Dean Matsubyashi on Sept. 4 at the age of 49, after fighting an aggressive form of cancer for 15 months. Following are some of their statements.

Dean Matsubayashi

National CAPACD (Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development): “Dean fought his illness with the same unwavering bravery and commitment that he fought systemic abuse and discrimination in our community. If you know Dean, you know his commitment to social justice. Dean was executive director of Little Tokyo Service Center in Los Angeles for seven years. He has served on the board of National CAPACD for a decade, including as National CAPACD’s board co-chair.

“As an engaged and thoughtful leader, Dean pushed National CAPACD to evaluate its impact critically while centering community. With his brilliant and strategic mind, open heart, and good humor, Dean amplified the impact of numerous organizations and leaders across the country – including many of our member and partner organizations in the community development field.

“He was a passionate leader who always put others first. In many ways, National CAPACD strives to embody the values that he pushed us to put in place years ago. There is much to learn from his exemplary (and ‘slobster’ as he called it) leadership style. To honor him, we commit to carrying on his good spirit as we continue the fight for truth and justice even in the darkest times.

“National CAPACD sends strength and support to the Little Tokyo community and his family – his wife, Kim, children, Emma and Sei, as well as his loving parents and siblings.

“A funeral service will be held on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019 at 1 p.m. at Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple (815 E. First St., L.A. 90012). The temple is where Dean’s father, Rev. George Matsubayashi, served as rinban for many years. We hope you will join National CAPACD in honoring Dean’s legacy.”

Rick Noguchi, Japanese American National Museum: “Keeping the lights on for Dean. @jamuseum is heartbroken over the loss of Dean Matsubayashi, president and CEO of LTSC, who passed away last night. We honor Dean by keeping the lights on above our Ceremonial Arch of the Historic Building, the former Nishi Hongwanji Temple, and the Beacon at the Pavilion.”

East West Players: “We are saddened to hear about the loss of Dean Matsubayashi … indefatigable leader in our community, and advocate for Little Tokyo. His smile and good-natured laughter will be missed. Our deepest condolences to the Matsubayashi family and our friends and colleagues at LTSC. May he rest in power.”

Manzanar Committee: “His leadership, not to mention his contributions and dedication to our community, will be sorely missed. We extend our condolences and best wishes to his family and friends, and to his LTSC family, as well.”

Dennis Arguelles, LTSC: “Dean Matsubayashi represented the best of us. Through words and actions, he made the world a better place, and his humanity was an example for all of us. I’ll miss his keen wit, sharp political senses and ability to find humor, even in times of duress.

“I’m so proud to serve on the board of the Little Tokyo Service Center, the organization he loved and led for most of his professional career. I hope we can continue to build the organization in a way that honors his life and spirit, and regret that he didn’t live long enough to see next year’s completion of the Terasaki Budokan, one of LTSC’s crowning achievements. RIP my friend.”

ACT LA (Alliance for Community Transit Los Angeles): “We join community from around L.A. in mourning the passing of Dean Matsubayashi … He is gone way too soon. As Erich Nakano said, his contributions were immeasurable. His legacy will always inspire us. Thank you, Dean.”

Community Works Consulting Inc.: “We are saddened at the news of the passing of Dean Matsubayashi … CWC had the pleasure of working with Dean and his staff several years ago and will always remember his tremendous energy and passionate leadership. Our sympathy to the Matsubayashi family and to our LTSC friends and colleagues. RIP Dean. You will be missed.”

Koreatown Youth and Community Center: “KYCC is grateful to Dean for his commitment to affordable housing for formerly homeless families, including Menlo Family Apartments, which opened in March 2013 and provides housing and services for 60 families in Koreatown/Pico-Union.”

Leslie Ito, formerly of Japanese American Cultural & Community Center: “Dean, Thank you for your friendship, being my partner in Little Tokyo strategy, politics, community. Thank you for showing me what real community partnership looks and feels like. You always had my back and helped me build back JACCC, especially in the early days.

“Leading an organization can be isolating and I appreciated all the conversations we had about how hard community work was, finding balance to be with our families and all the crazy ideas of how to organize LT. I loved the fact that you became such a strong arts advocate and the placekeeping in LT couldn’t have happened without your leadership … I will cherish the memories … and continue the hard work in your memory.”

Tuesday Night Project: “The whole Tuesday Night Project family is feeling the loss of our colleague, friend, and family member, Dean Matsubayashi. As the executive director of our fiscal receiver and founding partner, Little Tokyo Service Center, Dean was a fierce advocate for our vision of art+community space in Little Tokyo …

“On personal, operational, and larger community levels we are thinking about Dean’s impact and the tremendous legacy that he has left. We will have his family and close community in our thoughts in the weeks to come. Moving forward with our mission, we will continue thinking about the support of family like Dean in ensuring the interconnected future of our Little Tokyo community.

“‘Very simply, if you love Little Tokyo, you love Dean,’ said TNP founder traci kato-kiriyama. ‘He had the most swagger of any executive director I’d ever seen and empowered countless folks to realize our dreams and goals in the work of community self-determination. He was just a badass, and we’re all devastated by this huge loss.’”

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