Farmer Facing Loss of Land to Anaheim Kills Self at Home
A 61-year-old Anaheim farmer whose farmland was being condemned to make way for a hotel-office building-condominium project killed himself with a shotgun in his home Wednesday, the coroner’s office said.
The body of Masao Fujishige was found at about 7 p.m. by his wife, Carolyn, investigators said. They estimated that he had been dead an hour. He was alone in the living room when the fatal shot was fired, investigators said.
A month ago the Anaheim City Council, after protracted negotiations with the Fujishiges, voted to condemn part of the family’s 58-acre farm on Harbor Boulevard near Disneyland.
In recent decades, an intensely developed tourist center of hotels, motels and restaurants has grown up around the farm, and a $200-million project was planned nearby, including a 17-story hotel, two 14-story office buildings and a 180-unit condominium towers.
The 3.92 acres of land the city wants would go for access roads across the farm and into the project.
“It’s our livelihood,” Beth Fujishige, the victim’s daughter, told council members during the June 3 meeting. “My family have been farmers all their lives.”
She said the family was certain that once the city allowed the access roads, it would soon move to widen them, effectually destroying the farm.
The City Council, however, voted 4 to 0 for condemnation and hired as its attorney Floyd A. Farano, who also represents the project developers, Becker Ltd. and Alexandra Ltd. of Hong Kong.
In 1985 during an interview with The Times, Masao Fujishige told of the difficulty in preserving an agricultural life in urban Orange County.
“It’s a rough world out there, and you have to hang tough,” he said. “A lot of the others didn’t want to and now they’re gone.”
“It’s just absolutely shocking and regrettable,” said Councilman E. Llewellyn Overholt Jr., reacting to the news of Fujishige’s death.
“It well could have been (despondency over loss of his farmland), but I don’t know if the situation regarding the land could have caused him to be despondent.”
A neighbor of the family, Gale Cole, said Masao Fujishige as well as other members of the closely knit family, had seemed depressed.
“They did not want to sell their farm, I knew that,” Cole said.
“When you get that depressed it might have a lot to do with it. I know he was very unhappy about that. We all felt sorry for him. We didn’t agree with it. . . . All of us (in the neighborhood) felt badly about it. We felt bad that they were doing this to them.”
Councilwoman Miriam Kaywood said she abstained from voting on the condemnation because of her friendship with the Fujishige family.
“This comes as a total shock to me,” she said Wednesday night. “I spoke to her (Beth Fujishige) Thursday. She never mentioned anything about the family. Everything seemed in order. . . . They are a wonderful family, and I just love them, and I’m very broken up with it.”