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Ronald Takaki memorial service

September 15, 2009 |  1:27 pm

Takaki A memorial service for Ronald Takaki, a pioneering scholar in the field of ethnic studies who died May 26 at age 70, will be held Friday at UC Berkeley. The service, scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m., will be at Chevron Auditorium, International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave. A reception from 3:30 to 5 p.m. is planned at the Ethnic Studies Library, Room 30, Stephens Hall.

Takaki's family members and former colleagues will speak, a video remembrance will be shown and ukulele and hula performances will be given to celebrate Takaki's Hawaiian heritage.

Reporter Elaine Woo described his Hawaiian background in the obituary that appeared in The Times in May:

His focus on the pluralism of America began in the ethnic stew of Hawaii, where he grew up. Born in Honolulu on April 12, 1939, he was the grandson of a Japanese immigrant who went to Hawaii in 1886 to work in the sugar cane fields. After his father died when Takaki was 7, he was raised by his mother and Chinese stepfather, who ran a Chinese restaurant in Honolulu.

"I grew up peeling shrimp, cutting onions and reading 'Moby Dick,' " he told The Times in 1989.

Nicknamed "Ten-toes Takaki," he was a fearless surfer who was indifferent to school. But in high school a Japanese American teacher urged him to try college and wrote him a recommendation to the College of Wooster in Ohio, which accepted him. One of three children, he was the first in his family to attend college.

His years at Wooster, where he was one of two Asian Americans on campus, gave him a new awareness of himself as an ethnic American. One of his professors "asked me how long I'd been in this country, where did I learn to speak English. I told him I was from Hawaii and he says, 'But how long have you been in this country?' I guess I didn't look American," he recalled in an interview in the Lincoln Journal Star in 2000.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Ronald Takaki