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MASAYOSHI "MICKEY" KOJIMA
1926 - 2023
Les and Sharon are profoundly saddened to announce the death of their father, Mickey Kojima, on May 2, 2023. His passing leaves a void in their hearts and in the lives of all who knew him. As we reflect on his long and amazing life story, we remember a man of resilience, determination, and unwavering spirit.
Mickey's journey began in Vancouver, B.C. where he was born. His early years were spent in Royston, Vancouver Island, where his father worked in the logging industry. The outbreak of the Second World War dramatically altered the course of his life. At the age of 15, Mickey, his parents and three younger sisters (Kaz, Dorothy and Kay) were uprooted with only two days' notice and relocated to the Hastings Park Detention Center in Vancouver. After enduring six months there, the family was transferred to the Tashme Japanese Internment Camp, east of Hope, B.C., where they would remain until the war's end and where a fourth sibling (Henry) would be born.
Following the war, the Canadian government encouraged all Japanese Canadians to “repatriate” to Japan. However, Mickey's family made the decision to remain in Canada. They first moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, before finding a home in Manitoba, briefly in Sanford before settling permanently in Winnipeg.
In the face of post-war racism and limited job opportunities, Mickey sought to improve his prospects. In 1949, he moved to Chicago to complete a course in electrical engineering. Working nights to support himself and attending classes during the day, he displayed an unwavering commitment to self-improvement.
Returning to Winnipeg, Mickey joined Sargent Electric and Radio, where he worked until 1960. It was then that he and Art Goodman joined forces to establish Goodman and Kojima Electric (G&K). Known for their exceptional workmanship and dedication to quality, G&K’s reputation spread not only among Winnipeg's growing community of Japanese builders and designers but throughout the broader Winnipeg community as well.
In 1951, Mickey married Thelma Koga, who became his loving wife, steadfast partner, and invaluable source of support for almost 53 years. Together, they raised three children: Les, Lindsay, and Sharon. Thelma’s younger brother married one of Mickey’s sisters, so the children had very close cousins to play with growing up. Child-rearing was Thelma’s job. As the eldest son and patriarch of the Kojima family, Mickey needed to work to provide for the family—a job made more challenging because the 7-year internment left the family with zero savings and parents too old to start over. It was a fantastic partnership that grew even stronger after Mickey retired in 1986.
They travelled together, and Mickey redirected his legendary energies towards his new passions of downhill skiing and golf. The skiing did not last too long. Mickey lost an eye during a skiing accident in Lake Tahoe in 1987. But neither that nor a diagnosis of stage 4 bladder cancer in 1997 could slow the man down. He played close to 100 rounds of golf when he was 92, took a solo trip to Hawaii when he was 93, was climbing ladders when he was 94, and was still driving at the age of 95. He died at 96 while working out at the gym.
Mickey was also active in the Japanese Canadian community. He voluntarily applied his electrical contracting expertise to at least 40 Japanese Folklorama pavilions over the years, and did most of the wiring at the Manitoba Buddhist Temple and at the original and current Japanese Cultural Centres. His name is at the top of the donor boards at the Japanese Cultural Centre, and for many years he volunteered at the Japan Public Schools Program and at Donburi Lunches. He enjoyed attending the Horizon Club lunches and all of the major events, where he loved to tell stories and chat with friends.
Mickey now joins his beloved wife, his parents, his sister Kay, and his son Lindsay. His legacy lives on through his surviving siblings, Dorothy Koga, Kaz Nakashima, and Henry Kojima; his children Les and Sharon (Jamey Graham); his grandchildren, Stephen, Nicolas (Sarah Paradis) and Sachi, Megan and Joel (Alina Lopez), and Isabeaux and Jacobi; and his great-grandchildren, Ayina, Hana and Charlie.
A celebration of Mickey’s life will be held at 2:00 pm on Saturday, July 22 at the Japanese Cultural Centre (180 McPhillips Street).
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to one of the endowment funds maintained by the Winnipeg Foundation in the name of the Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba. All such donations will result in a tax receipt, a matching grant by the Winnipeg Foundation, and investment income to the Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba every year in perpetuity. A fitting way to show that we shall forever remember a truly outstanding individual.
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