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Ed Fujii

December 20, 1923 August 31, 2020
Ed Fujii
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Obituary for Ed Fujii

Ed Fujii
December 1923 – August 31, 2020

Ed Fujii was born in 1923 into a farming family in Nampa, ID. In his youth, he was an avid hunter and fisherman, an Eagle Scout, excelled in track and field, wrestling, and judo. He engaged in ham radio, which appealed to his technical mind. After graduating from Nampa High in 1942, Ed earned an AA certificate from Boise Junior College, attended the University of Idaho, and attained a BS degree with a major in General Agriculture from Oregon State College. Throughout college, he continued as an active ham, and enjoyed weightlifting, proudly achieving his goal of being able to military press his body weight.

While Ed was running music at a party at OSC, an attractive co-ed from the U of O came by to tell him how nice the music sounded. He married that friendly girl Patricia Lee, in 1951, and began farming near Ontario, OR. During his farming days, he and Pat had three children – a daughter Frances, and two boys, Wes and Dave. Ed was an expert auto mechanic, tool inventor, craftsman, and electronics technician (he built his own high-fidelity audio system and many pieces of ham radio gear). Ed became a certified Master Gardener, adding horticulture to his long list of skills. Although few have observed it, Ed was a gifted writer, poet, and artist. Interestingly, his children seemed to divvy up Ed’s talents and develop them into their own professions; Frances in art and advertising, Wes in mechanical engineering, and Dave in electrical and computer engineering.

In his 40’s, pain from athletic and farm injuries compelled Ed to leave farming and adopt a career in teaching. With a wife and three school-aged children at home, he earned a Master of Education degree with an emphasis in Audio-Visual Education at Washington State College. Through that curriculum, he polished his proficiency in photography, yet another of Ed’s passions.

Photography was a hobby that Ed inherited from his father Henry Fujii. Henry used glass plates (instead of film) to make photos. Ed took his hobby further, and to supplement his income, he became a professional sports photographer when sports photography was hard – no auto-focus, and only 36 shots per roll. All of his children, and many of his grandchildren have carried on with photography at the amateur and professional levels, a testament to Ed’s mentoring and influence.

As a teacher and bus superintendent for the Fruitland school district, Ed often kept a grueling schedule – up at 5 a.m. to drive a bus route, work a full day teaching, maintain the bus fleet and AV equipment, rush to shoot sports photography for the Argus Observer at multiple high schools in a single night, develop photos in the darkroom until the early morning hours, then return home to get a couple hours of sleep before starting it all over again.

Like so many of the Greatest Generation, Ed grew up during the Great Depression, which profoundly shaped his attitudes and behaviors. He was exceedingly frugal, learning to make do with very little and solving problems on a shoestring budget. His and Pat’s home was full of items that, rather than being discarded when broken, were repaired with masking tape, glue, and twine. Ed rarely purchased new for himself, but would buy used and often broken items, which he would subsequently fix before putting them to use. On road trips, he would calculate the speed and driving style needed to get the highest gas mileage and would patiently proceed accordingly at the expense of spending more time on the road. When he traveled by himself, Ed would forego restaurants and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he brought from home. He would sleep at a rest stop in his car rather than stay in a hotel. With this frugal nature as a backdrop, it was in contrast that Ed would be extravagant in his gift giving and arrange comparatively luxurious logistics to make others comfortable. He denied himself simple pleasures but was generous to others.

After Ed retired, he took up fly fishing, and worked hard at his craft. He spent countless hours false casting in his back yard and tying flies. In the book Haunted By Waters: A Journey Through Race and Place in the American West, author Robert T. Hayashi discusses his interview with Clayne Baker, nationally renowned fisherman. Hayashi writes of Baker, “He used to work delivering milk out to some of the farming camps of the Japanese in Idaho, and he recounted their honesty and also their angling prowess: ‘They were the best. Up there at Silver Creek. Using 3 lb. test with a single salmon egg. They would stand there like cranes. The best fisherman I ever met was Ed Fujii.’”

In his late 80s, Ed engaged in a whole new hobby – he took music theory lessons from his granddaughter Keiko, and after a year of private bass lessons, formed the Fujii Jazz Trio, with Keiko on the piano and son Dave on the drums. The Fujii Jazz Trio was known to feature guest artists on stage from time to time, including son Wes on the keyboards, and grandson-in-law Bryan Neufeld on the euphonium.

Ed has been a dedicated community servant all his life. He ran PA systems for events, led 4-H photography clubs, and provided horticulture expertise for such organizations as the MK Nature Center and countless individuals struggling with their landscaping. Ed loved nature’s creatures and provided transportation of injured animals for the Animals In Distress Association. Ham radio became more than the electronics hobby of his youth, blossoming into a major lifelong passion enabling him to uniquely serve the community. He spent countless hours serving on ham radio communication teams for disaster services; road races such as Robie Creek, Zeitgeist, and FitOne; bike races supporting the likes of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, MS Society, and American Lung Assoc; and provided traffic control for every major parade in Boise. In 2006, as a result of such avid volunteerism, Ed was given the Voice of Idaho Lifetime Achievement Award, and Ed and Pat were co-recipients of the Elk’s Volunteers of the Year Award.

Having worked hard to master so many skills, Ed could fix anything that was broken, those things not broken he could make better, and things not existing he could create. It's not the collective areas of expertise and abilities that made Ed special. It’s the service he so generously gave to his family, friends, strangers, and the community at large in which he used those skills that made him so much more extraordinary than the world’s famous, rich, and powerful. Ed did everything with no thought of reciprocation, praise, or recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. Thanks for teaching life lessons by living them, Dad. You will be sorely missed.

Ed was preceded in death by his parents, Henry and Fumiko; and his siblings: Ida, Howard, Mary Henshall, Edward, and JoAnne Nagasaka. He is survived by his loving wife of 68 years, Pat, and their three children: Frances (Tom Voccola), Wes (Jenny), and David (Lorraine). Ed is also lovingly remembered by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren: Chris Cheung (Trista Beard); Mei-Ling Cheung (Brian Brown); Elizabeth Tobin (Patrick); Ben (Sara); Keiko Neufeld (Bryan), Mia Cheung, Lewis Cheung, and Ty Shan Brown.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Henry Fujii Gem & Mineral Display, c/o the Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology, a 501(C)(3) organization.

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