Former San Jose city councilmember John Diquisto died of a congestive heart failure Monday morning. He was 83.
Diquisto was a Cambrian Park native who worked as a San Jose firefighter for 31 years before serving two terms as the city council’s District 9 representative. He was termed out of office in 2002.
Diquisto graduated from San Jose High School before joining the merchant marines in 1945. In 1948, he married his wife Shirley. He is survived by his wife and their four children: John, Gary, Susan and Kathleen along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Rising to the rank of captain with the SJFD, Diquisto acted as the firefighter union’s president for almost a decade.
“He was born and raised in San Jose,” said Diquisto’s daughter, Susan. “He loved the city and he was very dedicated to the citizens of San Jose.”
Diquisto was known for straight talk and frugality, eschewing the lunch circuit enjoyed by his colleagues. Instead he farmed tomatoes and fruit trees on the gravel rooftop of the six-story former City Hall building and hosted guests there for home-cooked ravioli meals.
Diquisto would often take matters into his own hands to make a point. He once invited the media to come watch him clean out a public toilet to prove that it didn’t take as long as city staff claimed it did to service a rest room.
Another time, Diquisto fixed a bent grate-bar, he said, because the city’s streets department took too long to repair it. “I told them that if they didn’t take care of it by the end of the year,” Diquisto told Metro newspaper, “that I was going to fix it myself.” After New Year’s, Diquisto went to Home Depot and bought a piece of steel and epoxy for $2.98. The repair job took less than five minutes, he boasted.
Diquisto remained active as a public watchdog following the end of his terms on council. The former union leader filed a lawsuit against the County of Santa Clara after a 2004 election, accusing county government of “interfering in the electoral process through the unauthorized expenditure of public funds and public resources.” The suit alleged that the county sought to influence the vote on measures that would affect public employees’ contracts. The lawsuit lost at the trial level, and on appeal.
He succeeded Jim Beall in the Cambrian district seat. Donald Rocha currently holds the District 9 seat on the City Council.