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Champion for U.S.-Japan relations dies at age 66

  • Published
  • By Capt. Teresa Sullivan
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A longtime friend and supporter of American servicemembers, their families and the Air Force mission in Northern Japan passed away May 1 from pneumonia at the age of 66.

Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki served as mayor of Misawa City, representing a city of 40,000, for more than two decades and was in his sixth term upon his death. 

Throughout his years as mayor, he laid the foundation for strong relations between the base and the local area.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. We not only lost a great leader and mentor, but a true friend," said Col. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, the 35th Fighter Wing commander.

"Mayor Suzuki's visionary leadership had a profound impact on the city and the base. The wonderful relationship we have with our community, its leaders and people is a direct reflection of his life's work and the 21 years he spent as the mayor of Misawa City," Colonel O'Shaughnessy said. "He will be greatly missed not only by the current servicemembers at Misawa Air Base, but by the many others who have called Misawa home."

Since 1987, Mayor Suzuki inspired positive relations making Misawa AB the model for community relations in Pacific Air Forces. Through his policy of  "Co-Existence, Co-Prosperity," his visionary leadership inspired events like Japan Day and American Day, where 80,000 residents merge with American families to share in each other's culture.

Through these events and day-to-day interactions with the host community, the base garnered the 2002 PACAF Public Affairs Director of Excellence Award in Community Relations, and the Chief's Installation Excellence Award as the Best Base in the World for 2005.

Recently the mayor was presented the Air Force Exemplary Civilian Service Award during a surprise ceremony led by Gen. Paul V. Hester, the Pacific Air Forces commander, and attended by former 35th Fighter Wing commanders to include: Lt. Gen. Loyd S. Utterback, the 13th Air Force commander; Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, the 5th Air Force and United States Forces Japan commander; and Colonel O'Shaughnessy.

The commander of Pacific Air Forces recognized Mayor Suzuki for his dedicated service to the U.S.-Japan alliance by presenting him with the Air Force award in January in front of approximately 100 civic leaders at city hall here. During the ceremony, General Hester listed the mayor's numerous achievements and contributions to the U.S.-Japan alliance over the years.

"I'd like to present this award to the mayor for his service to the alliance," the general said to the crowd. "The success of our former commanders and the relationships we enjoy in Misawa today happen because of the environment set here by your mayor. Co-existence and co-prosperity is his policy and it's not just a slogan. Those words come from the heart."

The general went on to illustrate that Misawa AB is more than a duty station, but a place many call home, and a wonderful place to raise a family.

"Families come to Misawa and are welcomed into your family," General Hester said to the mayor. "When we have to leave here, we leave with heavy hearts. We take the spirit and joy of Misawa and share it with others so that Misawa is known both far and wide."
Other milestones attributed directly to the efforts of the Misawa City mayor include leading the construction of the American Village, a community that caters to American culture; and Friendship Park, a monument in honor of the cooperation between Japan and the United States.

Mayor Suzuki graciously welcomed every distinguished visitor touring Misawa Air Base, to include the Secretary of the Air Force, the Pacific Command commander, and the PACAF commander.

He considered the residents of Misawa AB as "citizens of Misawa City" and served as a symbol of friendship between the U.S. and Japan.

"Mayor Shigeyoshi Suzuki's contributions and life's work will have a positive impact on the lives of those stationed at Misawa AB and to the U.S.-Japan strategic alliance for years to come," Colonel O'Shaughnessy said.

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