John Frederick Christgau
Christgau, John Frederick Award-winning author, poet, playwright, teacher and coach John Frederick Christgau passed away near his home is Belmont, CA on Aug. 21, 2018. He was born on Feb. 11, 1934 in Crookston, MN where his father taught and coached at the Northwest School of Agriculture. While his father served in the Second World War, his mother, who was a published author of several children's books, moved Christgau and his older siblings to Minneapolis. They lived in Southwest Minneapolis during the school year and spent summers on the family farm in Mower County. Christgau graduated from Southwest High School in 1952. Christgau attended University of Minnesota from 1953-1954 before serving for three years as an intelligence specialist in the U.S. Army Security Agency based on Oahu. Following his honorable discharge, Christgau attended San Francisco State University where he played on the men's basketball team from 1957-1960. He earned several All Far West honors, and helped the Gators win the Far West Conference championship in 1960. He was later inducted into the San Francisco State Athletics Hall of Fame (1997). Christgau earned both a bachelor's and master's degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State. The highlight of his time at SFSU was meeting his future wife, Peggy Barrett, a fellow student. The two were married on August 20, 1960 in San Francisco, and shortly after settled into their home in Belmont, Calif. In 1963, Christgau became the head of the English department and coached basketball at Crestmoor High School in San Bruno, CA. After the school closed in 1978, Christgau taught English, and later became a vice principal at nearby San Mateo High School. He officially retired from teaching in 1991 yet remained a friend and mentor to a legion of former students up until his death. Christgau tirelessly pursued his passion for writing throughout his life. A proud Minnesotan, over half of his books were set in his home state. His stories often highlighted historical injustices, reflecting his own dedication to social equality and civil liberty causes. His first novel "Spoon," published by Viking Press, won The Society of Midland Authors Best Fiction award in 1978. His prize-winning historical monograph "Collins Versus the World" is anthologized in Garland Publishing's series on Asian Americans and the Law. "Sierra Sue II: The Story of a P-51 Mustang," was released in 1995. "Mower County Poems," underwritten in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, appeared in 1998. "The Origins of the Jump Shot: Eight Men Who Shook the World of Basket-ball," was a Bison Original from the University of Nebraska Press (UNP) in 1999. UNP published "Tricksters in the Madhouse: Lakers vs. Globetrotters, 1948" in 2004; "The Gambler and the Bug Boy: 1939 Los Angeles and the Untold Story of a Horse Racing Fix" in 2007; and "Kokomo Joe: The Story of the First Japanese American Jockey" in the U.S. in 2009. His book "Enemies," a dramatic non -fiction account of the World War II alien enemy internment program was republished as a Bison Book by UNP in 2010. Christgau actively advocated for Japanese, German and Italian internees and their ancestors, and testified on their behalf in 2009 in front of a U.S. Congressional Committee on German internment. UNP released "Battle of Birch Coulie: The Epic Battle of the Dakota War" in 2012 followed by both "Incident at the Otterville Station: A Civil War Story of Slavery and Rescue" in 2013; and "Michael and the Whiz Kids: A Story of Basketball, Race, and Suburbia in the 1960s" in 2013. In 2017, Christgau produced the 1st season of the "Payless Murders" podcast, which can be heard on iTunes, about the longest old-cold triple homicide in Calif. At the time of his death he was not only working on a second season of the podcast, but also a manuscript, a play and several screenplays. Christgau will be remembered by many as a prolific writer and inspirational educator who always created a sense of community. His family and friends will never forget his quick wit, engaging storytelling, keen observations, gentle guidance, undeniable enthusiasm for life, and his unwavering strength and courage. They'll miss his ability to turn ordinary tasks into amusing games; the fun-loving nicknames he coined; and his eagerness to discuss what was for dinner each and every morning. His loved ones will recall his homemade apple pies, precise free-throw shots, encouraging words, robust laugh, big squeezes, jovial greetings and that trademark twinkle in his eyes. His indelible impact will be carried forward by his family, friends, hundreds of "favorite" students and thousands of readers. He was preceded in death by his parents, Rufus Christgau and Alice Erickson Christgau, his sister Kathleen Devaney and brother Dr. Roger Christgau. Life will never be the same for his surviving family, including his beloved wife Peggy Christgau; children Jennifer Christgau Aquino (son in-law Andrew Aquino), Sally Christgau (son-in-law Daniel Cooper), and John Erick Christgau (daughter-inlaw Carmen Christgau); cherished grandchildren Adeline (11), Eliza Jane (8) and John (7); and nephews Jack and Tim Devaney. Inspired by his love of the written word, John Christgau's family is working to establish a permanent memorial for him at the Belmont Library. gofundme.com/ john-f-christgau-memorial-fund
Published on October 7, 2018
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