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His Life

All About Shig

September 19, 2020
Shig was born March 31,1929 in San Jose to Toyoji & Kumi Tokiwa.  He was the middle child of five -- siblings Yoshiro, Fuji, Betty and Bob.  The family later moved to the Salinas area where they farmed iceberg lettuce.  

When he was 9 years old, he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle.  When he came out of his coma, he couldn’t walk.  It took him about 3 months to recuperate but he eventually was able to return to school in the Fall.  From the accident, he had a big scar on his head, as well as on his leg.  A little funny story -- there was an old picture taken where he was sitting against a tiny tree and it looks like the tree is coming out of his head. Being the jokester he was, he would tell everyone that the scar on his head was where they removed the tree from his head!

In Salinas, he attended Lincoln Elementary School, where he met his long time friend Kaye Masatani.  They remain close friends today, 85 years later!  Not surprising, Shig was a bit mischievous at school, and let’s just say the principal knew him well.  But they liked him, so he never got into too much trouble.

When the war broke out he was 12 years old and the family was sent to an assembly center at the Salinas Rodeo grounds and eventually was sent to the Poston, Arizona internment camp. 

There are many stories from Camp that Shig would share, but one in particular that he used to tell was his famous "fishing" story.  This fishing story had nothing to do with catching fish.  Fences are obviously built to keep things/people in or out.  However, there was something on the other side of a fence that Dad really wanted.  And those were chickens!  Using his ingenuity and mischievousness, he decided to build a fishing pole with a stick, line and bait.  He cast the line over the fence so he could fish for the chickens, and rumor has it that he was quite successful!

After the war was over, the family moved to San Jose where they lived on a ranch and did farm work. They eventually bought some land and farmed their own strawberries.  Shig attended San Jose Technical High School, and after high school he moved to Los Angeles to attend National Trade School where he studied to be an audio technician.

After graduation, he eventually moved back to San Jose and worked where he met and dated Mary Higashi, teaching her how to roller skate, went bowling, go to dances and enjoyed playing cards (Canasta) with friends. They dated for several years, and eventually married in 1956.

Shig and Mary bought a home in Campbell (for $12,000!) and had 2 children, Dave and Janice.  They would spend their summer vacations camping with their trailer, exploring western United States and Canada and of course, staying at the finest lodging establishments, KOA Campgrounds.  

During one of their many camping trips, the family was traveling through the Sierra Nevada mountains and saw a car pulled over on the side of the road. It was a young couple who had run out of gas.  Even though they were pulling their trailer, Shig told them to hop in, turned the trailer around and drove them to a gas station, and then drove them back to their car. They were very grateful and wanted to pay him for his troubles, but Shig said no, but you can help the next person who is in need.  This is just one example of the kind of man Shig was.  

Shig worked hard, and made sure that his children were able to attend college.  Dave married Michele Campbell and blessed Shig with his first beautiful granddaughter, Terra Lynn.  Janice married Troy Franey and he gained his second beautiful granddaughter, Maya.  He also had several grand dogs over the years - Yuki, Hana, Aki, Sammy, Kona, Haku and Bruin, who all adored him (or maybe it was the beef jerky he always had in his pocket!).

Shig worked in the audio technical field for over 45 years and retired at the age of 65.  In retirement, Shig loved to drive, and he and Mary would take day trips all over Northern California.  And sometimes on a rare occasion, they would even take day trips to Reno, returning home at 2am in the morning! (often getting scolded by their children!)

Shig’s extensive volunteer work with the San Jose Buddhist Church started in the early 70’s when Bill Furukawa and Jim Ichikawa recruited him.  He installed the audio system for the church, and quickly became THE audio guy - managing all the audio needs for not only the large church events, but eventually all the Japanese community festivals, including the San Jose Obon Festivals, Nikkei Matsuri and Daruma Festival.  You knew when he was involved or in charge when all of the equipment was labeled with tape and had his name on it!  His scope then expanded to the Chidori Band, where he contributed 45 years of service and support to the Band.  In 2015, he was honored and recognized by Yu Ai Kai, where he received an award presented to him by the Consul General of Japan for his many years of volunteer work to Yu-Ai-Kai.

Shig was a strong individual who overcame many adversities in his life, however he never let them extinguish his joyous attitude or his bright carefree smile! He remained a quick-witted jokester his whole life, lighting up a room with his jokes and always making people smile. With a twinkle in his eye, Shig was able to spark joy in anyone he came into contact with and no one will ever forget him. We will miss his smile and quick humor.