Obituary: Arigo Ignacio Sugihara

Grandfather, farmer, fly-fisherman, U.S. Army veteran

Arigo Ignacio Sugihara was born September 26, 1945 to Shigeyoshi Sugihara, a Japanese national, and Antonia Vermeer Sugihara, a Dutch Indonesian, in Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies presently known as Jakarta, Indonesia. Both parents preceded him in death.

His father personally petitioned United States Army General Douglas MacArthur to secure safe passage for his wife and son to Tokyo, Japan, when Arigo was three years old. In 1950, the family relocated to San Francisco, California. Ten years later, the family, which by then included his brother, George and sister, Lydia, moved to Scarsdale, New York. The entire family became U.S. citizens not long afterward.

He spent the next 59 years of his life in New York state before moving to Claremont in 2019.

He attended New York University, receiving both a bachelor of arts in German and a master’s degree in anthropology. In 1967, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served two years with distinction in Germany as a sharpshooter, rising to the rank of sergeant in the signal corps. In 1970, he married the love of his life, Charlene (née Miller) Sugihara, and they settled in the village of Hartsdale, New York.

For 25 years, he commuted to the Japanese trading firm C. Itoh & Co. (Itochu) in New York City, eventually becoming director of personnel.

In 1995, he and Charlene moved upstate to their dream farm on Pomeroy Road in Franklin, New York. There he raised replacement calves for a local dairy farmer. The couple also kept a flock of chickens, a pair of mischievous Nigerian dwarf goats, a mare, Lady Bee, and eventually her foal, Titi, as well as their beloved dogs Karma and Laika. Granddog Thucydides “Theo” was a frequent visitor. “In the hands of Arigo, they were the best-cared for animals ever,” his family shared.

Weekend visitors from all over the world enjoyed his legendary cooking, including a stuffed boneless duck for the very lucky. The couple enjoyed entertaining on both small and grand scales — from cozy dinners to pig roasts for a crowd. For nearly 25 years, many happy memories were created at Rocky Top Farm.

When he wasn’t tending to the property, the animals and guests, he enjoyed nothing better than fly-fishing for trout in local waters. He could spend hours, an entire day from sunup to sundown, wading, tying flies, and casting. He was a lifetime member of Trout Unlimited and always considerate of the environment and conservation.

In 2014, he received a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia. It only encouraged the couple to begin their “bucket list” travels to Japan, France, Israel, Jordan, Puerto Rico, Canada and various U.S. National Parks.

On March 17, he died peacefully at home with his wife and children by his side.

A consummate gentleman, he will be remembered by many, many friends as well as his surviving family members: his cherished wife, Charlene; his treasured sons, Adam Quasar (May-May) and Charles Max (Lannette); his three adoring granddaughters, Penelope Rose, Kasia Paz and Ziza Mar; four dogs; and a loving extended family.

A funeral mass will be held at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28 at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 435 N. Berkeley Ave., Claremont, with a private reception to follow at the home of Dr. Adam and Mrs. May-May Sugihara.

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