John Arthur McKinstry

June 23, 1935 ~ November 12, 2019 (age 84)


On Tuesday, November 12th, 2019, John Arthur McKinstry, retired professor of Cal Poly SLO, passed away peacefully at age 84 surrounded by his family.

John was born in Marion, Ohio where he excelled in high school as a baseball and football player. In fact, upon graduating, he signed on with the Braves minor league baseball team for whom he played for several years. Thereafter, he started at Santa Monica City College and finished his undergraduate degree at UCLA. It was at UCLA that he discovered his love and interest in studying anthropology, so much so, that he went on to obtain his PhD at USC in order to be able to teach and share his passion.

John moved to San Luis Obispo in 1968, where he built his remarkable teaching career at Cal Poly and formed his family. At Cal Poly, John specialized in teaching Asian cultures, with a particular emphasis on Japan. He met Asako in 1979, and they married in December 1981. John published his first anthropology book, Jinsei Annai, with Asako in 1991. He went on to publish two other books, Who Rules Japan? and Japanese Society and History, with colleague Harold Kerbo and has also published many articles and essays. John has additionally been honored with three Fulbright grants to teach in Japan and Bulgaria, where he was able to share his experiences with his family. Even several years past retirement, he was invited to continue teaching because of high popularity among students and colleagues. Still after finishing teaching at Cal Poly, John volunteered to teach regularly with Lifelong Learners of the Central Coast, where many frequented and enjoyed his sociology classes.

John was not only an exceptional scholar, but also an exceptional husband and father to his children Kenji and Mia. We have many fond memories of the silliness and humor our father loved to bring to our family occasions, starting from making funny faces for us as little babies all the way to continuously cracking jokes with us in our twenties. Though John clearly loved teaching, one aspect he thoroughly enjoyed about retirement was the opportunity to travel far and wide for long stretches at a time with Asako and us. Additionally, he was an avid tennis player, and made many friends on the court. Lastly, John is also survived by Hiroji McKinstry.

John and Asako were to celebrate their 38th anniversary this December. They were married at the Buddhist Temple, and thus, it is fitting that we celebrate John’s life at this same temple. We invite you to commemorate our beloved John with a service on Friday, November 22nd, 11:00 AM at SLO Buddhist Temple (6996 Ontario Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405). A reception will take place after the service. Additionally, a viewing will be held two nights before, Wednesday November 20th, 4:00 – 6:00 PM, at Marshall-Spoo Sunset Funeral Chapel (1239 Longbranch Ave, Grover Beach, CA 93433). We invite you to attend both occasions.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of John Arthur McKinstry, please visit our floral store.


November 20, 2019

4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Marshall - Spoo Sunset Funeral Chapel

November 22, 2019

11:00 AM
SLO Buddhist Temple (Ontario, San Luis Obispo, Longbranch Ave)
6996 Ontario Rd

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