By Joe Saltzman
from the Los Angeles Times online, retrieved January 5, 2012
The year was 1955, and there I was, a high school junior, standing in the Alhambra High hallway crying my eyes out. I’m not sure what I would have done if T hadn’t walked up.
We all called Ted Tajima T or Mr. T because no one could pronounce his last name correctly, and Ted was too informal a name for any high school kid to call his teacher.
T was an English and journalism teacher at Alhambra, and he changed my life forever.
I know Ted was passionate about UCLA and its athletic teams, even if they were having a bad year. He and I attended many Presbytery meetings together, and even after I stopped attending the meetings ve years ago due to childcare responsibilities, he continued to attend, sometime as our church’s only representative. He was always attuned to what was going on in Presbytery, especially when it was discussing controversial subjects. One year — in 1994 — Ted had the honor of being selected as our Presbytery’s lay representative to the General Assembly in Wichita, the national meeting of the Presbyterian Church. This was a singular honor, one that Ted cherished. Continue reading
Saturday’s Memorial Service was a wonderful tribute to an exceptional man.
It was the perfect combination of information, humor, emotion, and love. Each speaker highlighted another dimension of Ted’s life, so for those of us who knew him primarily as a teacher, we could appreciate all of his other impressive accomplishmens. The video tribute was beautifully done and very moving. I loved it.
I am a better person because Ted was in my life. And I am so grateful that I was able to stay in contact since my AHS graduation 53 years ago.
A small fact that was very big to me at the time. When I sold my first TV show, “Scholarquiz” (a high school quiz competition) to KCBS in Los Angeles, I invited Ted to be in the studio audience for the first show which was taped in Hollywood on my 23rd birthday. And he came! He sat right next to my parents. That gesture of being there on a Sunday afternoon meant so much to me—and is yet another example among countless others of Ted’s kindness and caring.
Somehow, I thought Ted and the Clarion would go on forever. We mistakenly make these assumptions and take too many things for granted in our daily lives. As I’ve lived in the Bay Area for over forty years now, the Clarion has been my link to the Japanese American community and to the First Presbyterian Church of my childhood. Since Dad and Mom (Moe and Minnie Takagaki) are now gone and no longer give me updates about their friends in Pasadena, I look forward to hearing news snippets via the Clarion. I learn who’s passed on. I read that Jim Ishii, Marilynn’s father, is still teaching painting classes. I see that Bob Uchida is still involved in the community and receive his hand-written acknowledgements of donations. It’s reassuring and comforting to see long-time Pasadena names mentioned in the Clarion every week.
Ted Tajima passed away a week ago – his memory will live on with me and countless other student members of the weekly high school newspaper production class he taught for 35 years – definitely an icon in his own right.
Known as Mr. “T” by his journalism students, he led them and the Alhambra High School “Moor” to state and national honors with him being named high school journalism teacher of the year during his tenure by the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association.
The Moor had been awarded more than 25 All-American awards that were presented by the National Scholastic Press Association that also named the student paper as one of the six best student newspaper publications in the country in n the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
When you read this, I will be returning from a memorial service in Southern California for a long-retired teacher.
It’s relevant because if I had never met Ted Tajima more than 40 years ago, I probably would not be reporting state government and politics—or anything else—or even writing this column.
It’s a cliche, but he was a teacher who made a difference in one student’s life—mine.
I remember when your Mom became very ill, Ted took continual care of her, never asking for assistance — not many men would have done that. This is a trait that continued on through his life: helping others in need.
Ted and I.
It was a summer morning. There was a knock on the front door of our rented house on Vernon Street in Pasadena.
Ted and I headed down to Colorado and Fair Oaks, hopped on the trolley and headed East on Colorado to Hill Street and Colorado across from Pasadena Junior College to the Fortner and Loud Ford Dealership.
Ted was extremely important to my high school experience. My own grown children know him through the stories I have told them of his influence in their father’s life. His encouragement helped me stick to my decision to pursue the ministry despite racial issues I was facing.
He was a true prince of a man and the model of what a wise and compassionate Christian looks like.
Rev. Bill Nebo
After learning of the death of “Mr T”, I went to your website and saw your invitation to express “thanks and appreciation for Ted’s service.” Since I am not a member of your church and had never read the Clarion, I’m not sure that my letter is what you had in mind.
However, I wanted to let someone know how grateful I am and how much I still appreciate what this marvelous teacher and gentle man taught me so many years ago. You see, I was a journalism student of his in 1952-54. In my final semester, I served as Feature Editor, when Margo McCartney was editor-in-chief.
The lessons he taught us went way beyond good journalism. Beyond how to write for and compose a high school newspaper. And beyond his infamous “red pencil.” He guided us, he counciled us, he advised us—and in his “eloquent baritone”—taught us how to be good citizens and responsible human beings.