Dr. Jiro Jerry Kaneko passed away in San Francisco on Jan. 18, 2013, having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke several days earlier. He had been thrilled by the celebration of his 88th birthday with his extensive family in Nov. 2012, a special milestone in Japanese culture. He lived a full and productive life, and was happy, energetic and optimistic to the end. The long time Davis resident is known for his scientific achievements, commitment to education in veterinary medicine and to public service.
His roots in Davis and at UC Davis began in 1951 where he received his AB degree in chemistry (1952), his doctorate in veterinary medicine (1956) and Ph.D. in comparative biochemistry (1959), mentored by Dr. Max Kleiber. In 1980, he received an Honorary Doctorate in Veterinary Science from the State University of Ghent, Belgium.
Dr. Kaneko was in the fifth graduating class of the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, joined the faculty in 1959 and retired 35 years later in 1994. His specialty was clinical biochemistry and he chaired the Department of Clinical Pathology at UCD-SVM. He had more than 180 scientific publications that trace his evolution as a scientist and educator, but also from student to professor to his veterinary students and mentor to his graduate students who later became colleagues and research partners. As Emeritus Professor, he continued to be active in international veterinary research and education through engagement in continuing education, writing, speaking, and consulting and as elder statesman in his international scientific societies.
He co-edited the seminal veterinary reference book, Clinical Biochemistry of Domestic Animals, first published in 1963 and in its sixth edition in 2008. This book has been translated into Japanese, Chinese and Spanish and serves as a reference for veterinary clinicians, specialists and researchers around the world. His research and teaching work expanded to the international network of students and colleagues at veterinary schools in Japan, Israel, Belgium, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Finland and Norway. This nurtured his love of travel, people, culture and commitment to education and the advancement of science.
Dr. Kaneko was born in 1924 to Japanese immigrant parents in French Camp, California. He grew up on a small farm until his family was ordered into an internment camp in Arizona during World War II. He served in the US Army at the end of the war in occupied Japan. He did not hold any bitterness from the experience of losing the family farm and the indignity of being interned by the US government that he served. Like many of his generation, this experience strengthened his resolve to better himself, his family, students and community. He embodied the humanist spirit of respect and compassion for others of all walks of life, especially those less fortunate.
Dr. Kaneko was first married to Frances Yoshie Tokunaga, who passed away in 1974. Together they had four children, Taro Jay Kaneko (Bobbi) of Fairfield; Jiro John Kaneko MS, DVM (Lorraine) of Kaneohe, Hawaii; Saburo James Kaneko DVM, MPVM (Kathleen) of Davis; and Mariko Julieann Kaneko, who died as an infant. Dr. Kaneko was later married to and spent the rest of his life with Teresa Bynum, who shared his love of travel and who brought into his extended family a son, Richard Bynum MFA (Jennifer) of Chicago and daughter Louisa Bynum DVM (Don) of Berkeley. Louisa and James were classmates and students of Dr. Kaneko at UCD SVM. Together Jerry and Teresa enjoyed and shared their love with fourteen grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“Uncle Jerry” was also the patriarch of his extended family which now includes several generations of remaining uncles and aunties, nephews and nieces and their children as well as those fortunate to have been “adopted” into his modern extensive family over the years. His three sons and their numerous cousins were exposed at an early age to the outdoors through camping and fishing trips, a tradition that has been passed on to the next generations. He loved trout fishing in streams and lakes in the Sierras, and off shore fishing trips for tuna in San Diego and Mexico. In his retirement years, summer fishing trips to Alaska became a tradition as did the large family Labor Day parties where the Alaskan salmon, halibut and black cod were shared.
After retiring from UCD, Dr. Kaneko remained in Davis and engaged himself in public service. He served as member of the Davis City Council from 1994 to 1998 and was instrumental in securing bus service from the Sacramento International Airport to Davis, Sacramento, and surrounding communities when none existed. He served on the Board of Directors for Davis Community Meals and Shelter, and was a member of the Davis Sunrise Rotary Club, Yolo County Farm Bureau, Yolo County Land Trust, and Yolo County Community Services Action Board. He had also served as Vice Chair of the Capitol Corridors Joint Powers Board, the Yolo County Water Association, the City of Davis Human Relations Committee liaison, the City of Davis Senior Citizens Commission liaison, President of the Davis Democratic Club, the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee, the Board of Directors of the International House in Davis, the UCD Emeriti Association Board of Directors, the Yolo County Health Council and represented Yolo County on the Area 4 Agency on Aging Advisory Board which is a statewide agency. In October 2012 he received a Board of Directors Award at the 28th Annual Yolo County Mexican American Concilio Recognition Awards, for providing educational scholarships and grants to students with the greatest needs.
Jerry was generous to a fault, and greeted friends, acquaintances and strangers with an easy smile, his infectious enthusiasm, open mind and open heart. His was a life well lived. He was committed to making Davis a better community and the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine the world class educational institution it is today through excellence in research, teaching and training of the next generations of veterinarians.
A Celebration of Life will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 14, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, 270745 Patwin Road (off Russell Blvd. in West Davis). His family asks that remembrances for Dr. Kaneko be made payable to the “UC Regents” and sent to the UC Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, P.O. Box 1167, Davis, CA 95617 for the “Jerry & Teresa Kaneko Fund for Faculty Development.”