Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Tribute to Mr. Iwao Koshimae - Recalling Long-Term Connections with an International Visitor Who Became a Friend

By Gail Shrott
Director, International Leaders Program

For well over 20 years, I have been exchanging holiday cards with Mr. Iwao Koshimae and his wife, Mie. This year, instead of a card with a photo or humorous caricature of the Koshimaes, I received a letter from their son, Mr. Ryuya Koshimae, informing his father’s friends that his father had passed away in late May 2013.

Gail Shrott during a 1989 dinner with
Iwae Koshimae of Japan (right)
and Dennis Unkovic of Pittsburgh.
When I began working for the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors (now GlobalPittsburgh) in April of 1989, I was told that in October, we would be hosting Mr. Koshimae and a group of Japanese executives from the Kansai Productivity Center in Osaka.

Anticipation mounted throughout the summer as we waited to receive a list of participants from Mr. Koshimae and a note expressing how much he and the group were looking forward to their trip. On the group’s first day in Pittsburgh, Mr. Koshimae would enjoy a golf game with PCIV’s  Board Chair, Attorney Dennis Unkovic.

On that first night that the group arrived in Pittsburgh, Mr. Koshimae would host PCIV staff members and Dennis Unkovic and our spouses for an elegant dinner in what had been Christopher’s Restaurant atop Mt. Washington. Mr. Koshimae would present his Pittsburgh friends with memorable gifts at that dinner, and we, in turn, would present Mr. Koshimae with a "Pittsburgh" gift of sports memorabilia and a trophy for the golf game earlier that day.

One of the Christmas cards sent
by Mr. Koshimae to Gail Shrott
every year.
Mr. Koshimae’s enthusiasm for his trip was infectious and he always seemed to be genuinely delighted to be with his friends in Pittsburgh. On the second day in Pittsburgh, PCIV organized a daylong business seminar for the Kansai Productivity Center delegation, which would include experts in the field of Japanese-American business relations like Dennis Unkovic, and faculty from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh, among others.

A highlight of the program for the participants was an evening of home hospitality with PCIV host families. PCIV’s Executive Director, Marion Hook, as the senior member of our staff, would host Mr. Koshimae for dinner at her home.

Following this highly successful model, Mr. Koshimae brought groups to Pittsburgh for over 20 years, ending in the mid 1990s. Mr. Koshimae and his groups were missed long after the exchange ended following his retirement. I discovered that a number of our hosts and former staff members continued to exchange holiday cards, as I had done, for decades.

I expect that we all have warm memories of Mr. Koshimae’s smile and his sincere joy at being back in our city, year after year. I feel so very fortunate to have been able to call Mr. Koshimae a friend.

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