Thomas Ikesaki

Obituary of Thomas Ikesaki

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Thomas Isamu Ikesaki, Jr.

January 8, 1941 – October 28, 2023


Thomas Isamu Ikesaki, Jr. was born in Sacramento, California on January 8, 1941. Tom spent his earliest years at Camp Amache (Granada War Relocation Center) in Colorado, where his family was interned when he was one year old. After WWIIended, he returned to Courtland, CA with his parents, Kenji and Patricia, and his younger sister, Jeanne. Tom enjoyed a close-knit relationship with his family, fishing with his father and hunting for abalone every summer with his parents along the shore in Point Arena.


Tom was a sharply intelligent, insatiably curious and spirited young man. He excelled at playing the clarinet and saxophone in the school band. Tom graduated from Courtland High School in Courtland, California in 1957 at the age of 16. He then moved with his parents to Sacramento, CA, where he attended an additional year at McClatchy High School and attained a second high school diploma in 1958. Tom went on to attend two years of college; however, he was largely self-educated in the field of science, about which he was passionate.


A charismatic social butterfly, Tom always made new lifelong friends everywhere he went with people from every walk of life. He was known for his incredible bowling skills in the Sacramento Nisei Bowling Association league.


In 1971, Tom met the love of his life. Their mutual friend,Robin, invited Cathy to meet Tom at the Maple Room while visiting her parents in Sacramento. Tom and Cathy hit it off immediately and remained friendly when she returned home to Illinois. Three years later, in 1974, Tom drove 36 hours straight to visit Cathy and convinced her to move to California to be with him. Tom and Cathy shared 49 wonderful years together, celebrating their 40th anniversary with a Mediterranean cruise.


Tom was also a doting father to his three children: Lori (b. 1963), Eric (b. 1981), and Alex (b. 1983). Some of their favorite childhood memories include the continued family tradition of fishing with their dad at Pardee Reservoir and hunting for abalone in Point Arena. Tom especially shared a love of basketball with his son, Alex, and coached his team at Sacred Heart Elementary School.


Tom worked a variety of jobs before settling into his true calling as an agricultural and environmental biochemist, including the California DMV and Aerojet. Tom was the manager at City Main Lab, after which he ran and later owned Anlab, a subsidiary of Dewante & Stowell Engineering. Despite never earning a college degree himself, Tom was a self-taught expert who went on to teach microbiology at Sacramento City College in the nursing program during the 1970s.


Tom was a driving force at the California Water Environment Association (formerly known as the California Water Pollution Control Association). Tom was appointed the first Asian-American President of the CWEA in 1987. This was one of his proudest career achievements, which his colleagues celebrated by affectionately using the title “Emperor” rather than “President” during his reign. Tom was awarded the Water Environment Foundation Bedell Award in 1983. He was inducted into the CWEA Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers (5S) in 1978 in recognition of his scientific contributions to the wastewater treatment industry, and inducted into the Order of the Silver Cover in 1987 in recognition of his long-term service to the Pretreatment, Pollution, Prevention, Stormwater (P3S) Committee.


Tom performed significant genetic hybridization research on allium (i.e., onions and garlic) as the director for Empire Farms Research in Nevada during the 1990s, during which he also served as an independent consultant for the California Garlic & Onion Research Advisory Board. He consulted on agricultural projects in Egypt, Germany and Thailand. Late in his career, Tom independently focused on chemical research, includingdevelopment of a non-corrosive acid that he discovered was useful in many diverse applications.


Throughout his illustrious career, Tom was widely published in scientific and academic publications. As one of the leading experts on wastewater treatment, textbooks with chapters that he authored are still used in environmental science programs at California State University, Sacramento.


Tom was an extremely remarkable yet unpretentious man. He enjoyed being underestimated and proving that he was more intelligent, more capable, and more talented than anyone expected. Tom was generous to a fault. He may have joked about “bleeding hearts,” yet nobody had a bigger heart than he did. Tom was always quietly helping others without ever expecting anything in return. Tom and his wife, Cathy, were patrons of the arts and generously philanthropic to social justice causes. Tom was a loving husband and father, son and brother—and a true friend to all. Tom will be missed by everyone who knew him.


Tom passed away at his home in Orangevale, California on October 28, 2023, surrounded in his last days by friends and family

Tom is preceded in death by his parents, Patricia (nee Wakabayashi) and Kenji Ohara, and his younger sister, Jeanne(nee Ikesaki) Andersen.

Tom is survived by his wife, Catherine; daughter, Lori; sons, Eric and Alex; daughter-in-law, Courtney; and his only granddaughter, Alexis.


The funeral service will be held at 2:00 p.m. December 6, 2023 at Sacramento Memorial Lawn, followed by a reception at the same location. Light refreshments will be served.


Sacramento Memorial Lawn

6100 Stockton Boulevard,

Sacramento, CA 95824



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Thomas Ikesaki

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Thomas Ikesaki

1941 - 2023

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