Current and former students gathered in front of Lodi High School on April 12 to remember Gary Fujihara, better known as ‘Fuj,’ a long-time art teacher who died unexpectedly two days earlier.
A small sidewalk memorial was held and students showed up with chalk to write some of their favorite memories of Fuj, who had taught for almost 30 years.
During the memorial, students covered the sidewalks in front of Lodi High with last goodbyes and drawings.
Immediately after news of his passing, students started the Facebook page “RIP Mr. Fujihara” to memorialize the beloved teacher.
In two weeks, the page gained more than 2,000 likes. Students continue to post pictures and memories on the page.
Fujihara was known for his jokes, unique phrases and Hawaiian shirts.
Robert Flesher, a Delta student and Lodi High alumn had “Fuj” as an instructor in 2014.
“My favorite memory of Fuj is whenever he would tell a story, he’d always start with ‘So I was driving from my house, you know, South Side Stockton 209!’ then he would put up a peace sign. Everybody always knew what he would say, but it would never get old,” said Flesher.
Teaching for almost three decades has its moments. It wasn’t uncommon for Fujihara to teach multiple members of the same family over the years.
Although Flesher is the first in his family to have Fujihara as a teacher, he is honored to have had him at all.
Fuj was known to go the extra mile for students. He would arrive early and stay after school for students who needed extra help with their assignments.
Benjamin Fauth, another Lodi High alumn, didn’t take any classes with Fujihara, but still went in often and ate his lunch in the teacher’s classroom.
During his time during lunch, Fauth learned a lot about Fuj.
“He was very different from most teachers. He was always understanding of people’s situations and he was always the person to talk to about anything,” said Fauth.
Fujihara impacted almost every student that walked through Lodi High.
“I don’t know any person who’s actually met him that he hasn’t made a memorable impression on. He was one of the kindest and funniest teachers I knew,” said Fauth.
Flesher had similar sentiments.
“All the kids loved Fuj, and he loved them back,” he said.
Since Fujihara’s passing on April 10, three memorials have been held. The first at Lodi High, the second at
Lodi’s Cherokee Memorial Funeral Home and the third was again at Lodi High School.