Bozant "Bo" Katzakian, the son of Armenian immigrants who rose to become one of Lodi's most revered business and political leaders, has died at 94.
For many, Mr. Katzakian's devotion to family and community, along with his savvy and conservative business sense, personified the values of Lodi.
"Bo Katzakian was Mr. Lodi," said Steve Mann, a former mayor who grew up near Mr. Katzakian's stately home in Downtown Lodi.
Mr. Katzakian died Thursday at a local hospital.
His friendship and counsel were sought by many in Lodi, and he remained mentally sharp until his final days.
"Bo knew everything," said Mike Locke, a Downtown business owner. "You didn't need Google to learn something - you just needed Bo. I went to college for five years, but Bo taught me far more about business than I learned in college."
Mr. Katzakian was a former mayor and a tireless civic leader who served as president of nearly every major organization in Lodi.
He was a savvy businessman who operated a long-time real estate and development company, and helped found the Bank of Lodi.
But while his background was humble, his life is a classic American success story fueled by hard work and optimism.
He was born in Kingsburg, Calif. on Jan. 1, 1915, the son of Armenian immigrants Garabed and Agavne Katzakian. He was the seventh of 12 children.
As a youth, Mr. Katzakian worked as a farm laborer and had little time for sports or other pursuits. He graduated from Lodi High School in 1934.
He continued working for some time in the vineyards and fields, but even as a young man he had a knack for business and a way with people. He opened a service station, then a produce stand, and then operated a store, the Cherokee Market, for five years.
He later built a career in real estate and land development with his partner, the late Ben Schaffer. During this time, with partners, he founded a title company that was later absorbed into the Old Republic Title Co.
He retired from real estate at age 66 to start a fresh venture: He became the founding chairman of the board of the Bank of Lodi. (The bank was later sold and eventually became part of Wells Fargo.)
Mr. Katzakian was a towering figure in Lodi's political and civic arenas. He was a member of the Lodi City Council from 1956 to 1964, serving three terms as mayor. It was during his tenure that Lodi developed its innovative system of parks that serve as drainage basins. Well after leaving office, his counsel and endorsement were sought by many aspiring local politicians.
"What I remember about Bo was his leadership," recalled Fred Weybret, a close friend of Mr. Katzakian who is the chairman of the News-Sentinel. "His energy and enthusiasm were just infectious. There will never be another Bo."
Mann recalls Katzakian as having "the wisdom of a wise grandfather."
Bozant 'Bo' Katzakian's civic leadershipA sampling of the late Bo Katzakian's community involvement:
- Joined Fraternal Order of the Eagles, No. 848 in 1936. He was
president from 1942-43
- Served as co-chairman on the Red Cross Blood Drive for Lodi
area for three years-collected more than 3,000 pints of
- President of the Lodi Board of Realtors in 1954 and
- Regional vice president of District of California Real Estate
Association in 1955 and 1973
- Served on the Executive Committee of the California Association
- President of Lodi Grape Festival 1956, served 21 years as
- President of the Lodi Lions Club from 1956-57
- Served on Lodi City Council from 1956 though 1964. Served as
mayor from 1958-59, 1962-63, and 1963-64.
- President of Central Valley Division, League of California
Cities from 1960 through 1964
- Served on San Joaquin County Grand Jury in 1968
- 1971 president of Lodi District Chamber of Commerce
- Served as chairman of Lodi Chamber Outstanding Committee for 21
- Charter member and former president, Lodi Area Crime
- Served on committee to start Habitat for Humanity
Member of the following:
- Fraternal Order of Eagles
- Lodi Lodge Masons
- Ben Ali Sacramento
- Scottish Rite Stockton
- Tokay Shiners Club
- San Joaquin Shriners Club
- Lodi Chapter Native Sons Hall
- Lodi International Order of Odd Fellows
- Lodi Association of Realtors
- California Association of Realtors
He was a tireless leader of community groups and served as president of many, including the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce, the Lodi Lions Club and the Lodi Grape Festival Board of Directors. He was a founder of the Lodi Area Crime Stoppers and a founding board member of the Pregnancy Resource Center. He helped start Habitat for Humanity in Lodi.
He was honored as Lodi's Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 1968 and was inducted into the Lodi Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame in 2003.
A new park on Turner Road was named in his honor in 2001.
He and his wife, Lorraine, created the Bo and Lorraine Katzakian Boys and Girls Club Foundation to establish a steady stream of income for the club.
Outgoing and unfailingly optimistic, he was a mentor and friend to countless Lodians.
Richard Jones, president and CEO of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, remembers coming to Lodi 16 years ago. He went to a Chamber dinner, knowing not a single soul in Lodi.
"I was sitting there by myself," Jones recalled, "and this fellow came over and said, 'Who are you? I'm Bo.'"
Mr. Katzakian asked if he and Lorraine could join Jones. They bantered during the dinner and at the end of the night, Mr. Katzakian shook hands with Jones.
"He told me, 'If I can ever be of any help to you, just let me know.' That night, no one else approached me, just Bo. I will never forget that. And I consider Bo and Lorraine among my closest friends."
After Mann's father died in 1970, Mr. Katzakian reached out.
"Bo was one of the first to comfort me and my family and to offer support during those difficult days. My family and I have never forgotten his kindness," he said.
Mr. Katzakian was a friend and role model to many, but his family always came first: Lorraine, whom he married on Aug. 13, 1942, and their children, Ronald, Terry, Reggie and Jennifer.
On Friday, they recalled Mr. Katzakian as kind, fair and generous, with an irrepressible sense of humor.
Mr. Katzakian enjoyed water-skiing and taught all of his children, and many of their friends, how to ski. Yet he never learned to swim.
Once, he slipped overboard and his glasses tumbled off. He grabbed them, but they were badly bent. No matter. He put the mangled glasses on his face and smiled.
"He said, 'Hey, this is great. Now I can see north and south,'" recalled Jennifer Katzakian.
His wife and family say some of their happiest times were spent boating on the Delta and on nearby lakes, often in a houseboat. They recall catching catfish and picking blackberries that Lorraine Katzakian would bake into a pie for that evening's dinner.
Weybret recalls fishing with Mr. Katzakian and being impressed.
"When we were with Bo, we caught fish," he said.
Reggie Katzakian remembered driving to Elk Grove years ago with his brother Ronald behind the wheel, driving rather slowly.
Reggie urged his brother to speed things up, but his dad intervened, and quipped to his sons: "No, slow is fine. I'd rather be known as the Bo Katzakian who was late instead of the late Bo Katzakian."
His dad enjoyed working in the yard, and made sure his sons joined in the maintenance duties, though he was not always overly impressed by their efforts. Once, a friend pulled up while Mr. Katzakian and his son Reggie were out in the yard. The man asked Mr. Katzakian who the boy was, and he responded: "Oh, that's my son Reggie. He's not afraid of hard work. He can lie down right down next to it and take a nap."
Jennifer Katzakian reflected on her dad's sense of fairness. After learning of an alleged teenaged transgression, he yanked her car keys and gave her a lecture.
Later, he learned the story was different.
"He came to me, gave me back the keys, and apologized," she said.
When son Terry was in Lodi on leave from the military, his father insisted on taking him to his Lion's Club meeting - and insisted he wear his full U.S. Army dress uniform.
"Dad has a very strong sense of patriotism," he said.
He was constantly active in the community, yet he fiercely guarded his family time. He refused to take up golf because it would mean too many leisure hours away from his family. If an extended fishing trip were planned that didn't include wives or kids, he declined.
He was unlikely to take any businessor city-related trip unless Lorraine or the kids could come along.
He was unfailingly generous to his children, whether that meant letting them use a boat or mountain home.
Reggie Katzakian recalled borrowing his father's houseboat for a party. The engine stalled and needed major repairs.
He offered to pay for the repairs, but his dad wouldn't hear of it.
"He said he was just happy he could do more for us than his parents were able to do for him," he said.
Mr. Katzakian is survived by his wife of 67 years, Margaret Lorraine Katzakian, of Lodi; brothers, Harry Katzakian, of Sacramento, and Daron Katzakian, of San Diego; sister, Pearl Klemin, of Lodi; children, Ron (Kris) Katzakian, of Jackson, Terry (Lori) Katzakian, of Whidbey Island, Wash., Reggie (Cyndi) Katzakian, of Linden, and Jennifer Katzakian, of Lodi; grandchildren, Joseph (Nena), Peter (Emily), Patrick, Nathan, Bo, Meagan and Ashley; and great-grandchildren, Cesarin, Diego, Helene and Alex.
A Celebration of Mr. Katzakian's life will be held on Tuesday, July 21, at 11 a.m. at Bethel Open Bible Church, 760 S. Ham Lane, Lodi. Private committal will take place at Cherokee Memorial Park.
Donations may be made in his name to the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, 275 E. Poplar Street, Lodi, CA 95240 or online at www.bgclodi.org; or Lodi Memorial Hospital Foundation, 845 S. Fairmont Ave., Ste. 3, Lodi, CA 95240.