Geneva Chamber’s 2012 Citizen of the Year

The Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that Nozomi Hirayama Williams has been named the 2012 Citizen of the Year.The Citizen of the Year award, sponsored by Five Star Bank, celebrates an individual who has unselfishly given to the community and created a more dignified, unique place in which we all work and live.Nozomi Hirayama Williams is considered an unsung hero in the Finger Lakes region. Mary Walsh Boatfield, Executive Director of Happiness House – Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy Association, nominated Nozomi and stated that Nozomi was honored upon hearing of the recognition.Nozomi was born in Japan, the seventh of eight children. She comes from a long line of wealthy family members and has been inspired by them. Her parent’s life changed on August 1, 1945 when their home was bombed and everything was destroyed. Even during this difficult time her parents helped many people by sharing their food and their music. Even without instruments, due to the bombing, music brought everyone hope. “Nozomi” means “hope” in Japanese and her parents chose to name her this as they saw her as their only hope when they lost everything. Even at their most difficult times, Nozomi’s family helped others whenever possible.Nozomi met her husband, Samuel Burbank Williams II in Tokyo in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympics. They were married in 1965 in Mito, Japan prior to moving to Geneva, Mr.Williams’ hometown. At that time, her husband, who spoke 16 languages, was the Publisher, President and Owner of the Finger Lakes Times. Sadly, Mr. Williams passed away in 1987. Nozomi is grateful to her husband and his family because without them she would not have been able to create the Williams Family Foundation. She is also grateful to her long-time friend, Anthony J. Donohoe, for the good advice and encouragement during the formation of the Williams Family Foundation. The foundation was founded in honor of Nozomi’s late husband and their late two sons, Ichiro (Ichica) and Jiro (Popo) Williams, as they had always discussed how to reach out to the community.Considered a humble and caring individual, Nozomi has made contributions in the arts, education, healthcare and disabilities areas in her own quiet way. Boatfield has had the honor of working with Nozomi for the past seven years and stated that she has helped enhance educational opportunities for children and adults with and without disabilities at Happiness House. One main example Boatfield mentioned was the contribution of new computers and iPads in the preschool classrooms for three and four year olds who are at crucial development stages of learning. The iPads offer technological assistance which enable teachers and therapists to present preschool curriculum in a manner that meets the needs of all learners, including those children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Boatfield stated that Nozomi “beams with joy” as she watches the students utilize the devices.Numerous other organizations in the area have benefited from Nozomi’s generous gifts. Those organizations include, but are not limited to: American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club of Geneva, Disabled American Veterans, Finger Lakes Community College Foundation, Finger Lakes Visiting Nurse Service, Finger Lakes Health Foundation, Geneva Center of Concern, Geneva Community Center, Geneva Concerts, Geneva Family YMCA, Geneva Historical Society, Geneva Lakefront Childcare Center, Geneva Police Department, Geneva Post Office, Geneva Public Library, Geneva Theatre Guild, Geneva Volunteer Fire Department, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, and the Smith Center for the Arts/Smith Opera House.The Citizen of the Year dinner, honoring Nozomi Williams, will be held on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at Geneva Country Club, 4147 West Lake Road, Geneva. The evening will start at 5:30pm with a networking reception with dinner and program beginning at 6:30pm. Tickets are $55 for Chamber members and $65 for non-members; corporate tables also available.

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