By DIANE R. CHODAN
OBSERVER Staff Writer
Kimio Bessho, who spent the 1965-66 school year at Fredonia High School through the American Field Service (A.F.S.) program, recently attended his 45th class reunion. Although the class has had other reunions, this is the first one he was able to attend.
Kimio’s American Family: Kate, Mrs. Garretson, Scott, Dr. Homer Garretson, professor of music at S.U.C. at Fredonia; Kimio Bessho.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan.
Fredonia High School Class of 1966’s foreign exchange student Kimio Bessho takes time to talk to members of his class. This was the first reunion he was able to attend. From left: Charles Parlato, Steven Gilray, Kimio Bessho and Gary Huber.
Bessho circulated through the roomful of classmates at the Beaver Club, happily renewing friendships, but he took time to sit down and talk. He said he was "honored" to be interviewed, and he came prepared with a resume.
Even though he studied English in Japan before he arrived in Fredonia, Bessho found studies difficult here because of the language. Even today, he will apologize for his English, and say he is "flattered" when someone tells him it is just fine. When he returned to Japan, he earned a Bachelor of English at Sophia University, a private college associated with the Jesuits, located in Tokyo.
A man who now smiles easily and enjoys talking to others, he said he was much different as a student. Commenting on his personality when he first came to Fredonia, he said, "I was very serious then."
He wasn't sure what to expect when he came to the United States. He was a fan of westerns and his penpal was from Texas, so he thought he might experience that type of life.
Originally from Tsu, Japan, Bessho now lives in Sapporo. He explained, "Sapporo is in the northern part of Japan. It has pretty much the same climate as Fredonia. I like that."
Yet Sapporo is much larger than Fredonia in population. Bessho said that the population is 1.9 million.
"The United States is a vast land," he commented. "Everything is bigger here."
Then with a laugh, he added, "Sometimes things are too big - like food portions."
When asked about the serious earthquake and tsunami in March of this year, he said, "We felt a tremor, but there was no damage."
Bessho worked for Japan Airlines for 35 years. He listed traveling as one of his interests and his career provided him ample opportunity to travel. In addition to working in many cities in Japan, his assignments included London, England and Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. Shorter business trips included traveling to Chicago and Rio, Brazil. Employment with Japan Airlines also offered him the benefit of travel until the government took over the company during the economic difficulties of the 1990s.
Bessho and his wife Setsuko have two daughters, a son and a 6-month-old granddaughter. Not surprisingly, he is pleased to be a grandfather.
He and his family have traveled for pleasure and to study. Bessho has returned to Fredonia to see his "foster family," attended the weddings of two of his children which were held in Hawaii (at different times), and visited one of his daughters when she attended Exeter in England. Another daughter was an A.F.S. student in Australia. Recently, he visited his granddaughter who lives in Bankok, Thailand.
After retirement, he was offered a job with a subsidiary company, Japan Security Support. He is the regional manager at the Sapporo Airport office, a job he has held for three years.
"My job is to stop the terrorists," he said.
Bessho is thankful for the time he spent in Fredonia during his formative years.
"I have a good life," he said. "(Part of) that is thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Garretson, my foster parents. Learning English was a great advantage in my life. I am thankful to them and to the class of 1966."
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