WATSONVILLE — The family of community leader Masaru Hashimoto (1935-2022) has posted the following notice.
Mas Hashimoto, born on Sept. 15, 1935, a life-long resident of Watsonville, passed away peacefully with his wife Marcia by his side. In 2019, Mas was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, which was the condition leading to his respiratory arrest on June 20, 2022.
Mas was an avid skier, golfer, photographer, and world traveler. In all his travels, Mas never lost sight that Watsonville was the best of all places to call home (“furusato”) because of its wonderful climate but mostly beautifully diverse cultural community.
Mas enjoyed writing an occasional column for the local newspaper, which were conversations with his ’68 blue Cougar. He was the editor of the Watsonville-Santa Cruz Japanese American Citizens League (W-SC JACL) newsletter for 25 years, which is now in the capable hands of Cindy Hirokawa Mine and Jeanette Otsuji Hager. Mas served several terms as president and board member of our local JACL chapter. He was also on the Buddhist Temple and Watsonville High School (WHS) Foundation boards.
Friends tried to encourage him to run for City Council, but he claimed that he was too hard of hearing.
Mas was predeceased by his parents Ikuta and Nami Hashimoto from Fukuoka-Ken, Japan, and brothers Hiroshi, Wataru, Tsuyoshi, Tadashi, Noriyuki, and Mitsuru — all born in Watsonville. Mas was the seventh son. He is survived by Marcia, his wife of 51 years, several brothers- and sisters-in-law, many nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews, who are his pride and joy.
The Hashimoto family udon-noodle restaurant could no longer be maintained after father Ikuta passed away in 1938. Mother and her sons became field laborers. Mas identified with farm workers with admiration as he labored beside them from the age of ten until he was 23. The wages he earned provided for his college education.
Mas graduated from Watsonville High School in 1953 and felt privileged to teach U. S. history at his alma mater for 36 years to nearly 7,000 students. He fought for equal opportunities for girls to participate in sports. He was an advisor to the coed bowling club and encouraged students with physical and mental challenges to be a part of the teams. He was a chaperone for the ski club established by his math teacher, colleague, and friend Jean Pogue.
Mas was the faculty advisor to the Class of ’79 and ’88, which he thought were two of the most spirited classes to graduate from Watsonville High School.
With the assistance of Jane Borg and the understanding and cooperation of the WHS Class of ’92, Mas arranged for WHS to be the first in the nation to award diplomas, with a cap-and-gown ceremony, to the Japanese American students of the Class of 1942 — an honor they were denied during World War II.
It was also in 1992, when Watsonville High School celebrated its centennial anniversary, that Mas was inducted into the WHS Foundation’s Hall of Fame. A partial list of awards presented to Mas for his civic service include: Grand marshal of Watsonville’s 4th of July 2011 Parade; KSBW’s Jefferson Award; the United Way of Santa Cruz’s City Community Hero Award; American Red Cross Lifetime Achievement Award; recognition from LGBTQ organizations; Freedom Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Award; JACLer of the Biennium; Buddhist Temple Dana Award; Okamoto Award; recognition by the Consulate General of Japan and friends and Family of Nisei Veterans; city, county, and State Assembly proclamation awards; Prevention and Student Assistance 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award; and ongoing scholarships in Mas’ honor awarded by the Class of ’65 to graduates of WHS who are the first in their families to attend college.
Guided by his beloved mother’s kindness, Mas’ motivation to serve his community was influenced by her expression of gratitude for the support from family and friends. During World War II, 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans on the West Coast were incarcerated in what have become known as America’s concentration camps. Mas and his family were among those denied due process and initially incarcerated at the assembly center at the Salinas Rodeo Grounds and then taken to Poston, Ariz., where they stayed from 1942 to 1945.
It was determined that this unjust treatment was based on racism, war hysteria, and the failure of our nation’s leaders.
Watsonville was one of the few communities that, to an extent, welcomed the return of their Japanese American residents. After the war, Mas felt that particular story and more needed to be told and in 2002, with the help of Cabrillo College history professor Sandy Lydon, sponsorship of the Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL, participation of members and friends, and support of city officials and UC Santa Cruz’s theatrical department, Mas organized the event “Liberty Lost … Lessons in Loyalty.”
This event was the first and only re-enactment of the 1942 WWII eviction of Japanese and Japanese Americans, which included heroic stories of our Nisei second-generation—young men and women who served with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service (MIS), and Women’s Corps.
Encouraged by their mother’s support, Tsuyoshi and Tadashi served with the MIS because of their fluency in speaking, interpreting, reading, and writing the Japanese language. Mas was adamant in his belief that our Nisei war heroes brought honor and respect to our Japanese Americans nationwide, and their award of the Congressional Gold Medal and commemorative “Go For Broke” postage stamp are testaments to the greater public’s positive regard for our community.
We appreciate the wonderful tribute to Mas by editor Tony Nunez and photographer Tarmo Hannula of The Pajaronian, and Aric Sleeper and photographer Shmuel Thaler of The Santa Cruz Sentinel. Thank you to friends for your kind remembrances expressed in the articles. Through the efforts of Susan Tatsui-D’Arcy, Mas’ 19-minute presentation, titled “Racism and America’s Concentration Camps,” can be viewed on TEDx Talk and YouTube.
Mas was grateful for the teaching opportunities he had through our W-SC JACL’s civil rights and education programs. In honor and in memory of Mas’ commitment to uphold the civil rights of all people and to continue the educational outreach about the plight of the Japanese Americans during WWII, a gift of a donation/contribution may be sent to the Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL at P. O. Box 163, Watsonville, CA 95077-0163.
Thank you family and friends for your condolences and support. Your visits, calls, emails, Facebook messages, cards, treats, and flowers have been comforting. Special appreciation to Debbe and Thomas Chan, Cindy Hirokawa and Gary Mine, Victor and Karen Kimura, and our neighbors Tom and Virginia Avila, Jean and Dan Johnson, Dorina and Greg Cabriales, and Michelle and Lee Stewart for always looking after us with kind regards.
Because COVID variants continue to be problematic, a small immediate family service is planned. Hopefully in the future when public gatherings are less worrisome, a celebration of Mas’ life will be announced. Mas’ final wish would be to encourage you to vote in November. Make your voices heard and please take care. Onward in memory of Mas!
To leave an online tribute, go to: https://www.lastingmemories.com/memorial/masaru-hashimoto?about