Ex-Councilmember John Diquisto Dies at 83

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.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

13 Comments

  1. John DiQuisto was a great treasure to the City of San Jose and the San Jose Fire Department.  He will be dearly missed, thanks to Shirley and his family for sharing John with us.

  2. He was the best councilman to serve this city, he would have never allowed public safety to be cut! Darryl you and the Council should have learned from him! He was a great leader! He will be truly missed!

    • I did learn a lot from John, he was a good friend and mentor. He actually provided me counsel and support during my tenure as Chief.  He truly loved our City and Fire Department and understood the balance between labor and management; and we can all learn from him. He will be missed but always remembered.

  3. For those of you wishing to attend, John’s funeral will be held this Saturday, July 2, 2011, at 11:00am, at Lima Family Santa Clara, 466 North Winchester Blvd.

  4. I knew John very well. He was an incredible man. While on the Council, he helped me get the outdoor sales of live animals banned in the City of San Jose, and played matchmaker to Christian and I. I love him and will miss him very much. My thoughts and prayers go out to his beautiful wife Shirley, and his family.

    The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Association of Santa Clara Valley will be dedicating our Wednesday, June 29th, Fireworks Safety & Informational community meeting to his memory. It will be at San Jose City Hall, Council Chambers from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. I hope you will join us.

  5. Tending the flower pots at city hall gave me many blessings as well as a sound foundation on the inner workings of San Jose government. One of the many blessings I recieved was getting to know and call John Diquisto, my friend.

    Councilmember Diquisto often stopped at the “pots” to ask my opinions on a host of varied issues. Over the years we would occasionally run into one another and he would still ask my opinions on a variety of issues, especially my opinions concerning city hall scuttlebutt.

    His passing reminds me of Job 14:1, “Man who is born of woman Is of few days and full of trouble.(NKJV)

    From my perspective, applying Job 14:1 to “J.D.”, as I knew him, Councilmember Diquisto’s few “elected days” were full of “giving trouble” to substandard city administrators.

    Now, the “flower pots” and “J.D.” are for the ages.

    As to the substandard city administrators, God has not made a decison on what to do with them for they are still in our midst.

    Someone should give the substandard city administrators some good-hearted “trouble” in memory of Councilmember Diquisto.

    Perhaps, if I practice a little harder…

    David S. Wall

  6. While working with John in the 80’s at a down-town station,  often John was the ‘chef of the day.’  His meals where always prepared from his heart.  What I was impressed with is ….  John would load plates with food and take them around the neighborhood and feed those in need.  He cared so much for those he served;  Firefighters, the Council and those in District 9.  Just after Station #4 was built on Leigh Ave,  John spent hours with Local residents to include children learning their language – Vietnamese.  He leaves behind a wonderful,  loving family.  One, that will carry with them beautiful memories of a Special Man.  A Man short on stature,  but Very Large in Compassion,  Integrity and Love.  You will be missed John.

  7. John, was amazing with his abilities as a Chef and friend.  His Washing Machine smoked turkey was legendary.  He was an outstanding Captain, Councilman,and mentor to many.  John, you will be missed.4

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