In Memoriam: Peter Domoto, Class of 2006

October 2, 1937  –  June 26, 2024

Our dear gentle friend Pete Domoto, the undisputed Oyster King of Camano Island, dedicated Sound Water Steward and inspiration to all who knew him, has gone on to his eternal rest. May his memory be a blessing and bring peace to his loved ones.”
-Elaine Chan

Dr. Peter Ken “Pete” Domoto passed away peacefully in Bellingham, WA on the evening of June 26, 2024, surrounded by his family.

Born October 2nd, 1937 in Berkeley, CA, Pete was the only child of Yoshiyuki “Yutch” and Fumiko “Ida” (Koike) Domoto and the youngest of a tight-knit group of cousins stemming from the marriages of Ida’s two older sisters, Marian and Alice, to two dentist brothers, Terry and Hideki Hayashi. His father Yutch was himself a member of the Nisei generation produced by the six immigrant sons of Kaiichiro Domoto, who had established the Domoto Brothers Nursery in Oakland, CA in the 1880s. They have since been recognized as the founders of the Japanese-American flower-growing industry that flourished in the Bay Area during the first part of the 20th century. In his retirement, Pete took great pleasure in genealogical research focusing on his father’s family, sparked initially by a Domoto family reunion he and his wife, Sylvia, hosted on Camano Island in 2002.

In 1942, the Hayashi-Koike-Domoto clan responded to the forced evacuation of Japanese-Americans from the west coast mandated by Executive Order 9066 by uprooting themselves and settling in Dallas, TX for the duration of the war. While the families had the rare opportunity to recover possession of their original homes at the end of the war, the family import business founded by Pete’s grandfather was lost during their exile.

A gifted athlete at Berkeley High School (Class of 1956), he lettered in baseball, basketball, and football, forming lifelong friendships with his teammates Earl Robinson, J.J. Guinn, and Bob Chiappone. He was named to the school’s Hall of Fame in 2005.

Pete entered the University of California, Berkeley in the fall of 1956 as a physiology major, playing both baseball and football his freshman year before concentrating on football exclusively. He was a key member of the 1958 squad, the last Cal team to play in the Rose Bowl (losing to No. 2-ranked Iowa), and succeeded his teammate Joe Kapp as co-captain of the team for the 1959 season. He was invited as an outstanding senior player to participate in the 1960 Hula Bowl. He served as the catalyst for the reunions of his “Rose Bowl Bears” that took place regularly until 2018. In 2010, he was recipient of Cal’s Glenn T. Seaborg Award, which “is presented annually to a former Cal football player for his career accomplishments who represents the honored Cal principles and traditions of excellence in academics, athletics, leadership and attitude.”

Pete initially encountered Sylvia Takeda in 1954 when he traveled to Pasadena CA to accompany Sylvia’s best friend Julie Tashima (Prunner) to a dance. Serving initially as her “big brother” when Sylvia arrived at UC in 1957 (where she eventually became a member of the UC pom-pom squad), they began dating in 1959 and were married on June 17, 1961. The young newlyweds took up residence at UCSF, where Pete had entered the Dental School in the fall of 1960. They welcomed their first child, Laura, in May 1962 while Sylvia was completing her dietetic internship. Jeff (1964) and Jenny (1967) followed to complete the family.

After Pete spent several years in private practice with his Uncle Terry in San Francisco, the young family relocated to Seattle where Pete earned certification in Pediatric Dentistry and a Masters’ in Public Health at the University of Washington (UW) He served as founding director of the dental clinic at the newly-established Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in Seattle’s Central District. This experience was to inspire his career-long focus on removing barriers to dental care for infants and children in underserved communities. He joined the Pediatric Dentistry faculty at the UW Dental School in 1973, serving as department chair from 1977 to his retirement in 2002. He spearheaded numerous research projects and treatment initiatives – including among children in Alaskan native communities, of migrant farm workers in central Washington, and indigenous peoples of the northwest. His proudest professional achievement was the establishment of Washington state’s Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) Program, which evolved from an intensive project he led with Prof. Peter Milgrom to evaluate the oral health care of third grade students in 37 of Washington state’s 39 counties. The ABCD program has become a national model for expanding comprehensive oral health care for infants and toddlers and continues to serve low-income families around the state, with 54 percent of Medicaid-eligible children receiving care as of 2018. In 1995, the UW recognized Pete for his work with high-risk, disadvantaged children with its annual Outstanding Public Service Award.

In their retirement, Pete and Sylvia moved to Camano Island, where his community involvement included the water quality monitoring and shore stewardship activities of the Sound Water Stewards, which integrated well with his aquaculture projects (Pacific and Kumamoto oysters, mussels and clams) on the beach below their home. They marked their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2011 by taking their family on a week-long fly fishing float trip down the middle fork of the Salmon River. He cherished his role as grandfather to Cameron and Quinn Mason and also maintained season tickets to the Seattle Mariners well into the 2010s. He initiated a move to Solstice Senior Living in Bellingham last fall as his symptoms of congestive heart failure became more difficult to manage, but was able to develop new friendships and pursue new interests to the extent that he and his family truly felt he was able to “die at home.”

Pete is survived by his wife of 63 years, Sylvia, his daughters Laura (Don Mason) and Jenny, his son Jeff (Pascal Ducharme), and his granddaughters Cameron and Quinn Mason. In lieu of flowers, donations are welcomed in his memory to the Peter K. Domoto Fund for Children at the UW Center for Pediatric Dentistry (https://thecenterforpediatricdentistry.com/for-professionals/donations/)  and to the Sound Water Stewards of Island County (https://soundwaterstewards.org/).


Please visit Mt. Baker Cremation to view obituary and plant a beautiful memorial tree in memory of Peter.

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