On March 15, 2023, Dr. Manjit Singh Nagi at 89 years of age passed away peacefully at his home, surrounded by love and God’s grace. He was a man who prized learning, integrity and selfless service (Sewa), above all else. He had a keen intellect, a sharp memory, and a desire to delve deeply into any topic that he encountered. He was a man of many interests and talents and no matter how diverse the topics he had knowledge of it. Dr. Nagi was a humanitarian who could not abide injustice, so when there was opposition to the building of a Sikh Temple (Gurdwara), it spurred him to become actively involved in politics. He served on the City Council for many years, choosing to donate his salary for after-school activities, and became the first Indian Mayor of Livingston. He was a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, reading all his writings and tried to follow many of those beliefs in his personal life. He was generous with all who knew him, but especially with those who didn’t, as he donated to many causes, often anonymously. Quoting Shakespeare, Sufi poets in Urdu, mantras in Sanskrit, & hymns from his ever-present Sikh faith, he was always open to seeking the truth wherever it may lie. This quest for deeper meaning infused every part of his life and as a seeker, he welcomed knowledge, thus his friends came from all walks of life and faiths.
Dr. Manjit Singh Nagi was born on October 6, 1933 in Lahore, British India to Parmatam Singh and Haribeen Kaur. He had older twin sisters (Simran and Kirten), an older brother Anantjit Singh, and a younger brother Jasjit Singh. All have preceded him in death. Within a few years of his birth, the family moved to Kangra/Dharamsala in the state of Himachel Pradesh, India. They would travel back and forth to Lahore (until the Partition in 1947) as they had extensive holdings in Pakistan, but his father had been appointed to open schools throughout Himachel Pradesh as his family had a storied history there. They had been the early settlers in McLeod Ganj and had operated successful businesses there since the 1800s. They would eventually sell their ancestral home to the Dalai Lama and it is currently the home and temple of His Holiness.
Manjit excelled academically and earned multiple graduate degrees in Microbiology and Pathology on his way to becoming a Veterinarian. He began his professional career as a research scientist in India and that remained his first love. That is until he became engaged to a beautiful, intelligent, gracious young woman named Vimal Walia, an English teacher in Dharamsala. During their 2-year engagement, they would write to each other regularly and when a letter from him would arrive, she would grab her Oxford dictionary and sit down with a cup of chai to decipher the love letter, as it would undoubtedly be filled with multi-syllabic words that this English teacher wasn’t familiar with!
On Nov. 22nd 1964, Manjit married Vimal in Dharamsala, India. In 1966, their only daughter, Rachna, was born and in 1968, Manjit made a decision that would change their lives forever. He decided to take a fellowship to study abroad. Unlike many of the young students heading to the U.S., he was much older and a family man at the time he embarked on this endeavor. It was a difficult time as he landed in rainy, cold Washington state in a small town that had few outsiders, & with his turban and beard, it made for a tough few years. He had no plans to stay in the U.S. after completing his education, but fate would intervene and a whole new life in the U.S. would open up. Upon finishing his education in Washington, he traveled to Sacramento, CA and got a temporary job at UC Davis. While there he was instrumental in finding the pathogen that was devastating the poultry industry at the time. This led to the University of California at Davis asking him to stay and sponsoring his family to emigrate to the United States.
Manjit’s first love was research but in 1973 he decided to forego it as his grant funded position ended. Thus, at 40 years of age, with a wife and young child, he gave up on his dream of research and took a job with the State of California as a Veterinarian. That job would lead him to Livingston, CA where he would raise his family, start his Veterinary practice, become a leader in the community and follow in his father’s footsteps of being an entrepreneur. In 1974 while working as a Veterinarian for Foster Farms, he and Vimal purchased a small restaurant, “Rocket Cafe.” Together they would make it a stunning success and from that small diner as a base, he would come to own other properties including the building of his own Veterinary practice which opened in 1981. In December 1976, a new addition to the family, a son named Michael would be born. His entrepreneurial efforts led to a series of difficult and unforeseen travails that would have bested a lesser man, but his perseverance and faith never let him give up and he would eventually develop the Livingston Hammatt Plaza.
He would continue to be active in civic affairs and cultivated a strong group of friends in the area. He was an engaged father, always taking the time to mentor each child. He and his son Michael bonded over their love of the LA Lakers and health related topics. He and his daughter, Rachna (who he often referred to as a mini version of himself) shared many common interests and a love of learning that would lead to wide ranging discussions.
He and his wife Vimal were happily married for over 59 years. To quote him directly about their marriage “Union of Mind, Communion of Soul, Oneness of Thought, is the essence of our Love”, and they had that in abundance-a linking of their hearts, mind and soul, leading to a very happy married life. Becoming a grandfather in 1996 changed his life profoundly, and he found such joy and a new lease on life with Maya and Christian.
He leaves behind his beloved wife, Vimal, daughter Rachna (Marc) Condos, son Michael, and grandchildren, Maya & Christian Condos, along with nieces and nephews and his sister-in-law Bhindri Bhagar.
In lieu of flowers, if you would like to contribute to the Dr. Manjit & Harinder Nagi scholarship funds you may do so by clicking this link: “Manjit & Vimal Nagi Scholarship Fund”. Or if you wish to write a check you can send it to Livingston High School, Attn: Bookkeeper, 1617 Main St., Livingston, CA 95334.
There will be a Remembrance of Life on April 22nd at 9:30 a.m. at Allen Mortuary, 247 N. Broadway, Turlock CA and Sukhemani Sahib & Lunch beginning at 10:30 a.m., at the Livingston Gurdwara, 2765 Peach Ave., Livingston.
While we mourn his passing, we celebrate his life and all the people he touched.