Deaths in the Family

Author: Notre Dame Magazine

Many who knew FATHER GEORGE H. MINAMIKI, S.J., ’77Ph.D., will find it hard to believe he’s gone, or that he was 82 years old when he passed away in January. “There was something eternal about him. He didn’t seem to age,” recalls longtime friend and colleague Yusaku Furuhashi, Herrick Foundation Professor of Marketing. The Jesuit priest started the Japanese language program and Japan Club at Notre Dame and guided the University’s Year-in-Japan program for many years. He died of a heart attack January 4 while visiting family in Los Angeles. In addition to his youthful appearance, Minamiki is remembered as someone who never talked about or called attention to himself. But he was a dedicated, able teacher and kind, someone who gave freely of his time to students and colleagues, even strangers. Born in Los Angeles to Japanese parents, Minamiki studied philosophy at UCLA before becoming a Jesuit priest. He moved from California to Japan, where he spent 11 years as a teacher and administer in highly regarded Jesuit high schools. He came to Notre Dame to study for a doctorate in theology and while here was asked to teach Japanese to students going abroad. It would become his occupation. He attained emeritus status in 1992 but never entirely retired from teaching, as he led preparation and follow-up courses for MBA students going on summer internships with Japanese companies. Well-known for his aptitude with computers, he also often directed workshops. He assisted with a summer program that helped Japanese managers with their English and welcomed many Japanese families to the South Bend area. The priest received the 1988 Sheedy Award for Excellence in Teaching in the College of Arts and Letters and in 1991 was a co-recipient of the Madden Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen. The Minamiki Endowed Scholarship Fund, established in 1992 by the Japan Club and still accepting contributions, supports an outstanding Notre Dame student studying in Japan.

FATHER JOHN H. WILSON, CSC, ’32, who overcame alcoholism to bring wisdom, compassion and guidance about the disease to the Holy Cross order, the South Bend community and thousands of individuals, passed away in February at age 92. Born and raised in Chicago, Wilson earned a degree in economics at Notre Dame and after that a law degree from the Kent College of Law in Chicago. Soon thereafter he entered seminary and was ordained in 1941. The priest would spend much of his career working in the Holy Cross seminary, particularly in vocations. He pioneered new methods of recruitment that became models for dioceses and other orders, including extensive travel to schools and brochures like “Boys Today and Priests Tomorrow.” In 1962 the order’s provincial asked him to edit a few issues of the Province Review newsletter until a permanent editor could be found. The temporary job lasted 36 years, into his late 80s. His editing methods bordered on the monastic. He never used a typewriter, much less a computer, preferring to gather news items and then write out connecting sentences by hand. This material would then be typeset into galleys, which he laid out on shirt cardboard in his room. The priest found his true ministerial calling, however, after 1972, when he was ordered into treatment for alcoholism. He achieved sobriety through the faith-filled methods of Alcoholics Anonymous and for years afterward facilitated A.A. meetings at alumni reunions and on the mornings of home football games. He became active in the local community, counseling individuals and families and speaking from personal experience to church groups of all denominations. In the 1970s he joined community leaders in establishing Phoenix House, a halfway house for recovering women alcoholics. He also was involved in the establishment of the South Bend Center for the Homeless and the Life Treatment Center, where a program is named in his honor. These efforts, like everything else, he carried out quietly, never drawing attention to himself. A fellow priest recalls being surprised to find out Wilson was volunteering one night a month as a babysitter at the Center for the Homeless. He’d also recruited Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students. He was in his 80s at the time. Said a fellow CSC, he was “a humble and unheralded servant of the poor and many who were without hope.”