Retailer, diversity activist

Passing Date: 
Saturday, January 29, 2022

Yoshitada Nakagawa, retired president/CEO of Seattle’s Osborn & Ulland Sporting Goods chain and a lifelong activist for diversity in sports, passed away peacefully at age 89 on January 29, following a third bout of cancer.

Yosh was born to immigrant parents in Seattle’s multi-ethnic Central Area. His early school years were interrupted by his family’s imprisonment during World War II at the Minidoka internment camp near Twin Falls, Idaho. After being freed in 1945, Yosh was able to return to Seattle (with $25 in hand) to finish Garfield High School, where his friends and classmates were of Japanese, Chinese, Philippine, Black, Jewish, Italian and German parentage; he took multiethnic teamwork, especially in sports, for granted.  While attending the University of Washington, he worked as a janitor and stock boy at the Osborn & Ulland Sports Shop. He also entered ROTC and served with the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, as a captain, at Fort Lewis, Washington.

Returning to Osborn & Ulland, over 45 years Yosh rose to become president and CEO, supervising the company’s eventual expansion to nine stores in three states. He aggressively promoted sports participation by women and ethnic minorities, in part by arranging store visits by heroes such as Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe, Hank Kashiwa and Wayne Wong. In 1958 he pioneered the “Sniagrab” sale for skiers; his stores became the number one Head ski dealer in the United States and he launched the King Headway ski instruction program at Snoqualmie Pass.

Yosh was active in the Baptist Church and the Nisei Veterans Committee, among many other nonprofits. He was elected to the Northwest Ski Hall of Fame in 2012.

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