2007 alumnus unexpectedly passes away in his sleep

February 1, 2010 — by Annie Lee and Karen Lyu

On the morning of Jan. 5, Shota Hasegawa, a 2007 graduate, a passed away in his sleep. The reasons for his death are still unknown and under investigation, but in the meantime, students, teachers and parents in the school’s music community have been left to deal with a tragic loss.

“Anytime we have to deal with something that questions the mortality of ourselves and those that we love and our friends, I think it is really really challenging particularly when its someone very young,” said music director Michael Boitz. “I think that brings a greater level of devastation.”

The night before his death, Shota, 21, showed no signs of any medical problems. He had returned home from catching up with friends at approximately 8:30 p.m. to eat dinner with his family and head to bed soon after. When his mother went into his room the next morning, she was unable to wake him.

After graduating, Shota attended De Anza College in hopes of later on transferring to a college in Japan, from which he moved to America in elementary school. Throughout his high school career, he pursued his musical talents and expressed his kind-hearted nature through his avid participation in the music department. He played trumpet for four years in the marching band, Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Symphonic String Orchestra.

“He was a very loved member of the trumpet section,” said Boitz. “He was a very kind person, very gentle, always putting other people before himself—a very selfless person.”

Not only was Shota a core member of the music department, but so were the rest of his family members. Both his father and younger brother, Keita Hasegawa, who graduated last year, are fellow trumpeters and his mother, Takako Hasegawa, has dedicated several hours a day to helping the music department as a volunteer for the last several years. From fitting hundreds of band uniforms to treating the entire marching band to cold popsicles on a hot rehearsal day to traveling with the band and orchestra, Mrs. Hasegawa has been an integral part of the music department even after both her sons graduated.

The news of Shota’s death came as a shock to the entire community.

“I was speechless initially and it’s hard to believe it,” said senior saxophonist Victor Chan. “It was surreal and it took awhile for it to hit. Shota was really nice and even though he was a little on the shy side, once you talked to him you could have a really good conversation.”

A memorial service was held on Saturday, Jan. 9, at the Presbyterian Church across the street from the school. With more than 800 students and parents attending, the church could not hold all those who came. An emotional open casket ceremony was followed a reception held at in the school’s cafeteria afterwards.

“Seeing the open casket made it more personal and it was really sad to see him like that. He’ll be missed by a lot of people and it’s devastating for us to lose him,” said senior Terran Chao. “Although I wasn’t too close to him as a freshman, he was definitely one of my favorite seniors at that time because he was incredibly nice.”

Students also expressed their condolences on Facebook, relaying comforting messages to the younger Keita Hasegawa and posting last messages to the group created in Hasegawa’s memory. Noting everything from “his smile and presence around the music building” to specific memories of going on field trips or car rides, the Facebook group has over 700 members and is still gaining members each day.

Ever since Shota’s passing, students, parents and staff have been pouring donations, gifts, and even meals to the Hasegawa house through this tough time. In order to give these donations back to the community in which Shota was brought up, the Hasegawa family has decided to create a scholarship in Hasegawa’s name designated for students involved in music or the special education department.

Said Botiz, “I think the blessing that Shota gave to us was that he kind of forced us to reflect for a minute and take time to recognize one another and it reminds us to connect with our friends, connect with our siblings and everyone else.”

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