Kenneth Takeo Nagao, 80, passed away on May 18, 2020 from complications from a fall. At the time of his death, Ken was scheduled to begin chemotherapy following a recent diagnosis of leukemia.
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Ken came to Eugene in l959. He completed his architecture degree at the University of Oregon after two years of pre architecture at the University of Hawaii. He met his wife, Irene Masumoto, also from Hawaii, at the UO and they wed in 1969. Except for time spent in the US Air Force Reserves, Ken spent over 60 years in Eugene.
Ken worked with various Eugene engineering and architecture firms and obtained his Oregon Architect License in 1972. After several partnerships and name changes, he established Nagao Pacific Architecture PC in 1988, which existed until his retirement in 2017.
Licensed in eight states, his works included the Emerald Valley Golf Course’s clubhouse restaurant, a 54,000 square foot building, designed and constructed in one year to accommodate a scheduled LPGA women’s golf tournament in Creswell. He also remodeled the Tiffany Building in Eugene to achieve its inclusion on the National Historic Registry.
In 2010, Ken was awarded the Mayor Special Award from the Creswell Chamber of Commerce for the hours he donated and the works he had completed there. He worked for Eugene and other nearby cities, inspecting schools and municipal buildings for handicap accessibility and compliance with the American Disabilities Act.
Professionally, Ken was able to influence the field of architecture through his work on committees and boards at the state, national, and international levels. In 1988, he was appointed by the governor to the Oregon State Board of Architect Examiners and served for nine years. When he first began, tests were hand-graded annually with as many as 10,000 tests at a sitting. Ken was a grader, a grading-coordinator, and a head grader. Ken spent an additional eight years on the National and International Advisory
Committees to help create and implement computerized licensure testing, which allows tests to be taken throughout the year.
Ever proud of his American Japanese-Hawaiian heritage, Ken saw a lack of cultural opportunities for youth in Eugene. He helped establish many activities and events in the Asian-American community. To encourage more young people to participate, Ken always insisted that the Asian Celebration, now in its 35th year, remain free to children under 12. Ken had an unrealized vision for a Lane County multi-cultural center celebrating all of the many cultures of the area.
Ken made and painted flyable kites up to eight-feet tall and elaborate gingerbread structures, did pottery, fished, bird hunted, and collected decoys. He played seven musical instruments and music was always a part of their gatherings.
The Nagaos welcomed people to their home for many holiday events for food and fellowship. At their annual Christmas party, guests enjoyed the giant tree decorated with hundreds of teddy bears. Ken said his home was one of the architectural projects he was most proud of because it was designed to bring people together.
Ken enthusiastically supported Kiwanis with its goals of helping kids. He was an active member of the Eugene Kiwanis Club for 36 years and served as president of his club and later District Lt. Governor. He was involved in many civic projects, including Lane County Job Fairs, School Career Days, Food For Lane County, Parenting Now (Birth to Three), and Eugene Ballet Board.
Ken will be remembered for his humor, thoughtfulness, and love of whimsy. He was a mentor who led by example and a true example of friendship.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Henry Eiji Nagao and Miyuki (Shikada) Nagao, and his brother, Roy. He is survived by his wife, Irene; his sisters, Ellen Fukuda, Alice Asasaki and Beatrice Okada, all of Honolulu, Hawaii; and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial gathering will be held at a later date.
Arrangements entrusted to Major’s Funeral Home.