Tatsuo Nakata was the senior legislative aide and chief of staff for Seattle City Councilmember David Della. He was struck and killed by an automobile while in a West Seattle crosswalk on Nov. 14. A Tatsuo Nakata Memorial Service will be held at the Chapel of St. Ignatius on the Seattle University campus on Thursday, Dec. 14 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. —ed.

BY BOB SANTOS

It’s difficult to get Tatsuo Nakata out of my thoughts because he was involved in my everyday life. I’d run into him at Uwajimaya while shopping for dinner. I’d see him at the City Council when visiting a Council member or testifying at a hearing. I’d see him at the countless receptions and dinners in our community. I marched with him at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally. And, of course, enjoyed his company at the Bush Garden restaurant during the many nights of karaoke.

At 29 years old, Tatsuo was a seasoned veteran in the quest for equal justice and equality. When at the age of 24, he became the youngest president of the local chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, elected by members his age and others more than twice his age.

Over 500 people attended his services on Saturday, Nov. 18, and there were folks from all walks of life. Tatsuo chose the life in public service, and from that field attendees included: King County Executive Ron Sims, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels; from the Washington State House of Representatives were House Speaker Frank Chopp, Phyllis Kenny, Bob Hasegawa and Sharon Tomiko Santos. Former members of the House present were Velma Veloria and Kip Tokuda. Seattle City Council members attending were David Della, who was Tatsuo’s boss and spent almost the entire four days after his death attending to details, Richard McIver, Peter Steinbrueck, Sally Clark, Richard Conlin, Jan Drago, Jean Godden, Nick Licata and Tom Rasmussen.

Thinking back to 1963 when I was 29 years old, I was just getting started in the civil rights movement, and my circle of friends numbered close to 50 people including my own kids. This young, cherubic leader could hang with the best of them, debating point-counterpoint with the likes of Jeff Hattori, Mark Okazaki, then grab the mike and sing karaoke with the same two. He loved the ladies and in return they adored him.

I was privileged, and in small part, to be involved in and witness the most amazing organizational planning effort that anyone could ever imagine. During the watch over Tatsuo the day of the accident, there was much grief and tears but there had to be cool heads that started to coordinate the logistics of contacting family, flying them in from different parts of the country including Hawaii, Ohio, Kentucky and Texas, and finding accommodations at homes and in hotels.

Food was brought into the hospital for family and friends, people were tasked to drive family members from the airport to the hospital, and arrangements were made for people to be with the family during the entire crisis.

Elaine Ko opened the Inter*Im office to a group of close friends to plan a memorial service in just three days. The Seattle Center staff offered space, and the Saturday service was held as a wonderful tribute to this wonderful guy. Photos were assembled to create a video that was shown on a large screen at the service, and a beautiful program was designed for people to keep as a memento of Tatsuo’s brief but full life.

Some of his closest buddies: Hyeok Kim, Nori Catabay, Akiko Sukurai and Frances Yuen, plus his mentors Velma Veloria, Kip Tokuda, Ruth Woo, Sharon Tomiko Santos, David Della and his wife Odette – plus others too numerous to acknowledge here, but they know who they are – will feel the hurt for a long, long time.

A memorial fund has been established in Tatsuo Nakata’s name. Donations are accepted at any Washington Mutual bank branch at account number #313-108130-3.

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