Ronald Jay Sax

SaxRonald Jay Sax, 88, on February 13, 2021, in Palo Alto, Calif., after a long journey with Parkinson’s disease and a mercifully short one with cancer. Ron was born on January 2, 1933, to Nathan and Adeline (Jacobson) Sax in Benton Harbor, Mich. During his Jewish upbringing in Benton Harbor, Ron witnessed and sometimes experienced racial and religious bigotry while working at his father’s junk shop in a largely poor, Black and immigrant section of town.

Ron enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1952. He spent two years in Texas as a basic training instructor and two in Tokyo as a file clerk. Ron’s years in Japan opened his mind to Japanese culture. He never lost his fascination with other cultures.

Ron enrolled at Central Michigan College in 1956. He gravitated toward a circle of students and faculty who questioned the prevailing social and political values. Ron met a Japanese exchange student, Katoko Inoue, with whom he shared a sense of urgency for international understanding as the way to peace. Ron left Central Michigan for Chicago, Ill. Katoko joined Ron, and they were married in 1962. Their daughter, Naomi, was born in Chicago in 1962, and son, Kenji, in 1965.

Marriage and parenthood brought focus to Ron’s life. He left his job in a bookstore for a better job. He and Katoko became active in the anti-war and civil rights movements in Oak Park and began attending Quaker meeting. Ron was first drawn to American Friends Service Committee’s social welfare efforts, and then to the spiritual base that underlies Friends’ outward concerns.

In 1967, Ron accepted a job as a computer programmer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in Menlo Park, Calif. He was arrested at a sit-in at the Oakland Army Induction Center and sentenced to ten days in county jail along with more than 100 other anti-war protesters. Katoko and the children were looked after by members of Palo Alto (Calif.) Meeting. Thus began Ron and Katoko’s long engagement with Palo Alto Meeting. They became members in 1969. Ron served as clerk and associate clerk, newsletter editor, host for Hotel de Zink rotating shelter, and other committee roles. His most challenging role may have been clerking an estate settlement committee, which had the difficult task of bringing the meeting to unity on how to use a very large bequest.

Ron and Katoko loved to travel. They took many trips throughout the United States and to more than 40 countries. Ron took up jogging in 1978. He gradually worked up to completing his first of three San Francisco Marathons in 1982. In 1988, Ron and Kenji took a cross-country bike ride from Seattle to Chicago. Ron was an avid jazz fan, serving on the board of the Palo Alto Jazz Alliance and traveling to Cuba in 2000 on a jazz-oriented trip. He participated in writing classes through the Palo Alto Adult School.

Ron’s feelings of comfort began to erode due to Quakers’ apparent bias in favor of Palestinians over Israelis. It came to a head in 2006 over what Ron identified as antisemitic posts on the meeting listserv. When a clearness process failed to soothe the conflict, both parties felt too uncomfortable to attend meeting any longer.

Ron continued working at SLAC and closely related jobs for the remainder of his professional career, retiring in 2000.

Ron and Katoko were very close with their four grandsons, taking them on trips and reveling in their recitals, presentations, sporting events, and graduations.

Ron was predeceased by Katoko, who died of cancer in 2013. He is survived by two children, Naomi (Neil Simmons) and Kenji (Cindy Lamerson); and four grandchildren.

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