Feb. 1, 1918—Nov. 29, 2013
Shuki Hayashi died unexpectedly on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, one day after attending a family Thanksgiving dinner.
The many friends and family members he left behind will miss his love of meandering conversation on just about any topic (outside of popular culture), his sense of wonder, and his mischievous sense of humor.
Born February 1, 1918 in the Salinas Valley to Issei parents, he had four sisters, a brother, and a half-brother. As a boy, he loved roaming along the Salinas River with his cousin, Chick, later recounting that he knew the river “like a book,” one that was rewritten with each annual flood. Fascinated by mechanical and electrical devices, he learned to repair pocket watches, automobiles and radios. He also conducted electrical experiments (some on his sisters). After high school, he earned an A.A. in Engineering from Salinas Junior College and worked as a tractor driver, irrigator and tiller of soil. One day, while driving a tractor, he figured out a design for an automatic transmission. Encouraged by an engineer at UC Extension, he initiated a patent search which, unfortunately, turned up a standing patent on the design.
In 1940, Shuki entered UC Berkeley, changing his major from electrical engineering to physics after an adviser told him that a person of Asian descent would not get work as an engineer. His senior year was interrupted by WWII and the outbreak of anti-Japanese hysteria. He returned once more to the Salinas River to bury family heirlooms out of fear the family would be tied to the Japanese war effort.
The Hayashis were sent to an internment camp in Poston, Ariz., where Shuki met his future wife, Marian Lind. A month later, he left camp to join the Cannon Company of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. They courted by mail for the duration of the war while Shuki served in Italy and France. Purple Heart in hand, he returned to Chicago in 1946, where his family had relocated. He and Marian married on March 7, 1946.
For two years, Shuki worked as a research assistant for the Manhattan Project and at the University of Chicago, returning to Berkeley in 1948 to resume his education. By 1956, Shuki had completed a Ph.D. in Biophysics and he and Marian had four children. In 1958 he moved the family to Davis where he was a research biophysicist and acting assistant professor of physics at UC Davis. From 1964 to 1988 he was a professor of physics at CSU Sacramento.
Retirement years were occupied by travel with Marian, home improvement (on his children’s homes), woodworking, enjoying grandchildren and lots of reading. In 2012 he was proud to receive the Congressional Gold Medal along with his comrades from the 442nd. He will be remembered for always speaking his mind, his wide-ranging interests and knowledge base, an amazing memory and his ability to connect with people from all walks of life. Those who knew him on a daily basis are all the wiser about the evils of plastic and the virtues of Watco Danish Oil Finish.
Shuki was predeceased by half-brother Riuzo Minejima; brother Tadao (killed in action during the final days of WWII); and sisters Michi (Kato), Masa (Aoki) and Yuki (Fujimoto). He is survived by wife Marian; sister Osame (Doi); children Ann, Keith, Carla and Eric, and their spouses; five grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
A celebration of his life will be held on February 1 in Davis. In lieu of flowers, please send gifts in Shuki’s name to the Parkview Presbyterian Church, 727 T Street, Sacramento, CA 95811.