Will T. Deguchi, a Sacramento native and retired state official who was a leader in civic and community groups, died Oct. 16 of pulmonary fibrosis, his family said. He was 81.
Mr. Deguchi climbed the ranks during 35 years of public service in state government. Starting as a clerk at the California Department of Motor Vehicles while attending college, he advanced as an accountant, manager and chief in various agencies.
He served as a deputy director in the departments of health services and corrections and the Office of Criminal Justice Planning, his family said. After retiring in 1991, he was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson to the state Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency.
He also was active for 39 years as a member of the Senator Lions Club in Sacramento, including more than one term as president. He worked with young people, served as a moderator and spent the last 25 years as treasurer at Mayhew Community Baptist Church in Sacramento.
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“His mother was a pioneer in that church, along with other issei (Japanese immigrants),” his daughter Deann Kanenaga said. “They helped start the church, and he had been going there since he was very young.”
Born in 1933, Mr. Deguchi was the fourth of seven children who grew up picking strawberries and table grapes on their farm near Bradshaw Road. The family returned to the Rosemont area after being held at an internment camp in Poston, Ariz., during World War II.
He graduated from Elk Grove High School, attended Sacramento City College and was drafted for two years in the Army. He earned a business administration degree from Sacramento State.
Married to his wife, Agnes, since 1957, Mr. Deguchi raised three children and lived for the past 45 years in the Glenbrook neighborhood. Besides golfing with members of Nisei in Retirement, he was an avid reader who kept a list of 294 books – mostly mysteries and thrillers – that he read in recent years, his daughter said.
In addition, he coached boys basketball at his church.
“He enjoyed helping with youth and making a difference,” Kanenaga said. “Because of his strong faith in God and his belief that once you die, you live forever, he touched all our lives. He got that from his mother.”
In addition to his daughter and his wife of 57 years, Mr. Deguchi is survived by two sons, Kent and Barry; a sister, Betty Murata; two brothers, Fred and Roy; and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Mayhew Community Baptist Church, 3401 Routier Road, Sacramento. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Mayhew Community Baptist Church.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.