Max Masaji Takasugi (August 20, 1925 – May 7, 2018) passed away peacefully in his home from complications of emphysema at age 92. He was the fourth of eight children born to Genzo and Kiyoko Takasugi, first generation Japanese immigrants to America. Max’s character was forged in his childhood during the harsh economic conditions of The Great Depression. He and his brothers and sisters epitomized the Japanese ethic of “gambaru” (which roughly translates to “persevere though adversity”). As adolescents, Max and his older siblings took on the responsibilities of managing the family farming business in Davis County, Utah, just north of Salt Lake City. Throughout his school years, Max worked on the farm in the fall and made up missed class times in the winter. At age 13, as a charismatic youngster, Max took on the job of transporting and selling the farm’s potatoes at market in Salt Lake City. He recalled the buyers and brokers, mostly of Italian ancestry exclaiming “Heil, Mussolini!” or “Heil Hitler!”
Despite his significant work responsibilities, Max graduated from high school, even as he “had missed more school than (he) had attended.” When the United States entered the war, persons of Japanese, German and Italian ancestry were put under curfew. And following Pearl Harbor, many Japanese American citizens were relocated in internment camps. Fortunately for the Takasugi’s, there was a farm exemption for reporting to a camp. All Americans, but especially Japanese Americans were facing an uncertain future.
Max and his brothers were drafted into military service during World War II. However, health conditions prevented Max from being placed on active duty. In 1950, he answered his nation’s call to service during the Korean War. After enduring harsh training in the hot deserts of California and the cold winters of the Midwest, Max and his fellow soldiers made their way to Pusan, Korea. On the brink of being transported to the front lines, a sudden change of plans had him report to the Labor Officer of the Pusan Army Depot, 552 EBO HD&HQ CO Battalion for a new assignment: to replace three sergeants as Labor Chief and supervise 2,500 Korean laborers. When asked if he was up to the job, Max immediately said "Yes, Sir! When do I start?"
Using his outstanding management skills, Max created an organizational and supervisory structure that maximized the efficiency of the work crew. He served two years running the Pusan Army Depot as Labor Chief, directly overseeing the work of the supervisors and superintendents and the thousands of laborers. He received a medal of commendation from the Secretary of the Army for his exceptional service. Max was then transferred to the Tokyo Army Hospital in Japan to serve as a Japanese interpreter. This transfer was a fortuitous twist of fate as there he met his wife and lifelong companion Michiko Mayeda. Michiko and Max were married soon after in a traditional Japanese ceremony and, on the 15th of October 1953, in a ceremony in the American Embassy.
In July of 1954, Max and Michiko were summoned by his family back to the Tremonton farm in Utah where he farmed with his older siblings. Hard economic times soon hit the area, with the closures of the Del Monte and other tomato canning factories, followed by that of the sugar factory. In 1960, Max, Michiko, their two sons Ron and Dennis, and daughter Katherine moved to Canyon County Idaho, where they lived and worked on the 80 acre land that he had purchased. The family soon expanded with the births of two additional children, a son James and a daughter JoAnn. In farming, Max applied the same unique mixture of boldness, ingenuity, and industry that he had displayed in Utah during his childhood and in Korea as a soldier. He increased the size of his farm (4M Farms) four-fold to a total of 320 acres. He made many capital improvements on his homestead and farms including the digging of four large irrigation wells during several years of drought. Max “witched” the source of the underground water for each of his wells with newly cut branches from a willow tree, a talent he had learned in his childhood. Word of his ability spread throughout the community via a story published in the local newspaper; soon after, farmers eagerly sought his services to locate underground sources of water.
Max ultimately retired from farming in 1987 after successfully supporting all five of his children through college. Shortly thereafter, he was elected as the Canyon County Highway Commissioner, a position he held for four years. As commissioner, he implemented tough but fair practices of vehicle registrations of Idaho residents, a policy that increased Idaho’s tax revenues that were previously being diverted to Oregon. He received a formal commendation from Governor Cecil Andrus for his service.
In addition to his success as a businessman, Max is remembered for his industry, pragmatism, honesty, integrity, sense of humor, and story-telling. Max entertained his children, grandchildren, and friends with his stories. He was well known among the Japanese American communities of northern Utah and southern Idaho, and was frequently recognized and greeted warmly wherever he went. Max gave generously of his time and advice, and was a respected member of the southern Idaho farming community.
Max is survived by his wife Michiko, sons Ronald, Dennis, and James and their spouses Alex, Donna and Karen, daughters Katherine and JoAnn and their spouses Don and Brian, grandsons Alan, Andrew and Gabriel, and several nieces and nephews. Dad, we are forever thankful for all that you did for us and the model of hard work and perseverance that you displayed throughout your life. The family is also grateful for the kindness, companionship, and care provided by his caregivers who were with him in the final days of his life. Following his wishes, the family will celebrate Max’s life in a private graveside ceremony. Memorial contributions may be made to Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (https://alzfdn.org/support-us/donate/). Condolences may be shared at www.dakanfuneralchapel.com.