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Tom Mukaida

  • Tom Mukaida.

Tom T. Mukaida had farmed apples since his boyhood, but at age 65 he agreed to try his hand at raising premium pinot noir and chardonnay grapes on his ranch outside Sebastopol.

Mukaida died Dec. 29 at the age of 94.

A hard-working farmer, Mukaida never retired, even taking part in last year’s grape harvest. His family said he didn’t see it as a job.

“He didn’t go to work each day. He just went to the ranch,” said his son-in-law, Randy Peters, who farmed grapes with Mukaida.

Born in Maui, Mukaida came to Sonoma County as an infant. The oldest of six children, he graduated from Analy High school.

During World War II, Mukaida spent more than three years in Colorado at Camp Amache, also known at The Granada War Relocation Center. The camp held more than 7,000 Japanese Americans who had been forcibly moved from the West Coast.

After the war, Mukaida returned to apple farming, something he had first learned at the age of 14 at his uncle’s ranch. By the late 1950s he was able to buy his first ranch.

Eventually he acquired two properties totaling 38 acres. To do so, he took a job at an apple cannery.

“He ran the ranch during the day and worked the swing shift from 4 to midnight,” Peters said.

Family friends introduced him to his future wife, Esther, a Sebastopol native. The couple were married for 43 years until her death about 1996.

In 1984 Mukaida became one of the first farmers to introduce grapes in the Sebastopol area. For the next 15 years, his son-in-law and he removed a few acres of apples each year and replanted the ground with grapes. By 1999 the conversion from orchards to vineyards was complete.

Ranch visitors regularly would find a bottle of Martinelli’s sparkling cider that Mukaida had left for them in their pickup trucks.

For about 20 years, he took a trip to Hawaii after each grape harvest.

He also enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren.

Survivors include his daughters, Robin Peters of Healdsburg and Linda Smith of Sebastopol; his brother, Ken Mukaida of Sebastopol; his sisters, Matsumi Sugiyama and Judy Yokoyama, both of Santa Rosa, and Nancy Yoshioka of Petaluma; two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

At his request, no services were held.

The family prefers memorial contributions to the Gold Ridge Fire District, 4500 Hessel Road, Sebastopol 95472.

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