Beloved Santa and community icon Kerry Taniguchi has passed away
Kerry Taniguchi, a Seattle native, beloved Chinatown-ID (CID) Santa and perennial customer at the Tai Tung restaurant counter, died in his sleep at his Renton home earlier this month at the age of 67 years old.
Taniguchi was a familiar presence on the streets of Chinatown. He was a small figure with a long, wispy gray beard, a wide-brimmed beanie, sunglasses, and a vest with pockets. He would walk around, stopping to chat with friends old and new, sharing loving details about the neighborhood’s past.
Taniguchi, born May 11, 1954, attended Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, Washington Junior High, and Franklin High School. His parents, Hitoshi and Taeko Taniguchi, operated the Publix Hotel in CID, which sparked a passion for the neighborhood.
After attending Bellevue Community College, Kerry enlisted in the military, leaving with a medical discharge. He then worked at the Chevron gas station on Rainier Ave. S. and McClellan. At the Chevron Corporation, he taught first aid to gas station employees in Washington and Oregon. In the mid-1970s, a Chevron station attendant used this training to help a victim of a head-on crash near his station in Oregon.
Taniguchi had a generous spirit. His younger brother Harold recalled, “For four years I drove my car to and from Southern California to school, not to mention trips off campus. Kerry gave me a Chevron credit card and paid my bills no questions asked the entire time!”
Kerry worked for several years in King County for the Road Services Division as a road use investigator. He was a King County volunteer firefighter and reserve officer. He has given numerous first aid training sessions and addressed installation and safety issues at Nisei Veterans Memorial Hall and the White River Buddhist Church.
In 1976, Taniguchi began volunteering at the International District Emergency Center (IDEC). After retiring as King County Sheriff, he became IDEC’s primary trainer for first aid and emergency preparedness. He was a close friend of founder and director Donnie Chin, tragically killed in the summer of 2015 in crossfire between rival gangs.
“Kerry single-handedly trained CID residents, businesses and regular visitors in first aid skills after Donnie’s death when the council realized it could no longer sustain round-the-clock patrols and the emergency response with the departure of Donnie,” said Richard Mar, former Chairman of the Board of IDEC. . Taniguchi joined IDEC’s board of directors last year.
During the holiday season, Taniguchi happily dressed up as Santa at the Wing Luke Museum and Tai Tung, handing out fortune cookies and candy to children and posing for photos.
“Last December, fresh out of hospital, he put on his red suit and fulfilled his pledge to Harry Chan at Tai Tung to perform his infamous Santa Claus for children,” Mar said.
Taniguchi made annual trips to Disneyland with his family. More recently, he has taken trips to historic WWII Japanese American incarceration camps with friends. Without fail, he visited his father’s grave weekly and saw his 97-year-old mother every Tuesday, bringing treats from Uwajimaya.
Taniguchi’s sister Diane died in 2016. Kerry is survived by older brother Donald, younger brother Harold; ex-wife Carol Taniguchi, two daughters, Allisyn (Drew Duryee) with grandchildren, Jackson and Emma; and Kristyn (Michael Goddard).