Remembering Bill Hosokawa
Living memorial honors late Asian-American pioneer in
By Joe Nguyen, AsiaXpress.com
Feb. 19, 2008
DENVER – It wasn’t exactly what the late
Bill Hosokawa had in mind.
According to his friends and family, the former Denver
Post editor and honorary Consul General of Japan
in Colorado was a humble man – a man who felt uneasy
when he was recognized for his contributions and accomplishments.
After he died, his family fulfilled his wishes to have
a small private service and scattered his and his wife
Alice’s ashes at their favorite location.
But for a man who gave so much to the community, his
peers had other things in mind.
“In the days following his death, many, many of
his friends wanted to do something to honor his remarkable
life, and we came to understand this was something bigger
than any of us,” said Susan Boatright, Hosokawa’s
second-oldest child. “So after much agonizing, we
gave into pressure and here we are.
“Sorry, dad – I know you’ll understand.”
A living memorial remembering Hosokawa was held Feb.
16 at the Gates Concert Hall on the University of Denver
Hundreds gathered for the two-hour ceremony which featured
Hosokawa’s grandchildren reading excerpts from his
book, “Out of the Frying Pan,” a video tribute
and eulogies from luminaries such as former Japanese American
Citizens League National President Cressy Nakagawa and
Gov. Bill Ritter, D-Colo.
“His legacy is too valuable to just leave in vain,”
said Bob Sakata, a longtime friend and chair of the Living
Memorial Remembering Bill Hosokawa Committee.
Photo by Joe Nguyen
Former JACL National President Cressy Nakagawa
gives a eulogy during the Living Memorial Remembering
Bill Hosokawa Feb. 16 at the University of Denver.
Hosokawa was born in Seattle in 1915 to immigrants from
Hiroshima, Japan. While in college at the University of
Washington, an adviser told him to drop out of journalism
school “because no newspaper in the country would
hire a Japanese boy,” according to his biography.
“He was told, ‘You can’t be a journalist,’”
Rocky Mountain News Publisher John Temple said.
“And he didn’t let anything stand in his way.
So when young people today look at journalism, ‘Oh,
what are the problems?’ and ‘What’s
the future?’ Bill would just say, ‘Do what
you love, it will work out.’ It worked for him.”
Unable to find work in the states, he traveled overseas
and worked at English-language publications in Asia before
returning to the U.S. in October 1941, five weeks before
Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Seven months later, he and
his family were among the 115,000 Japanese Americans sent
to an internment camp. But rather than staying angry,
he used this period as a motivating factor that shaped
“‘You can’t stay angry for 50 years.
I was never an activist like Minoru Yasui … I’ve
always regarded myself as a journalist,” Temple
said, quoting Hosokawa. “‘It was my job to
write about what happened to us. It was then that I became
devoted to fairness newspaper reporting.’
“That devotion stands as a model to those of us
who follow him.”
Ritter said that his attitude helped create a healing
atmosphere for Colorado.
“I think just having a healing spirit as a prominent
man to have approached for his story the way he did was
a healing thing for our community,” he said, referring
to Hosokawa’s time in a Japanese internment camp.
“He could have been angry, he could have been bitter
… but I think his attitude that he took for it allowed
for us as a state to get beyond the mistakes that were
made in that internment.”
He would go on to work for The Denver Post where
he was a foreign correspondent who covered the Korean
and Vietnam wars before taking on a variety of editor
“He was just a calming guy,” said Fred Brown,
retired Capitol Bureau chief for The Denver Post. “In
a newspaper office, there are a lot of people who are
very frantic and they would fly off the handle. …
Bill could just take everything in stride. Nothing ever
got him riled up. Occasionally his language would get
a little salty, but his voice would never elevate to dangerous
After retiring from the Post, he served as an
ombudsman columnist for the Rocky Mountain News
for several years. He has also written a number of books
that told the stories of Japanese Americans.
According to Sakata, a bust honoring Hosokawa is being
considered for Sakura Square, as well as college scholarships
in his name. But all this prompted one final response
from the humble man.
“There was a familiar voice trying to get my attention
so I closed my eyes and looked up and there was the spirit
of Bill,” Sakata said. “The first thing he
did was scolded me for spearheading something like that
was so undeserved.”
Joe Nguyen is the editor in chief
of AsiaXpress.com. Joe can be reached at Joe@asiaxpress.com.