Ever since John Elway took Stanford to the Rose Bowl, my mother-in-law Ellen had said, “I just wish Stanford would make it to the Rose Bowl one more time in my life.” I would reply that I wished her a very long life. We all agreed, though, that if Stanford ever did make it to the Rose Bowl again, the Kamei-Leungs would throw the biggest party ever. On New Years Day 2000, we did.
Bing worked hard for months putting together every element for the convenience of his parents and the Kohatsus, connected through two generations of Stanford/Palo Alto ties. A Paul, Hastings friend of mine and patient of Bing’s then on the Pasadena City Council gave us four complimentary grandstand seats for senior Leungs and Kohatsus, right at the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado where the parade makes its famous turn on camera. Another patient who lived a block away from that famed corner saved us space to park in her driveway. Bing scoped out parade route space for himself with Neal and his family, and pre-paid for private parking at the Rose Bowl so we could arrive for the game relatively late and leave relatively early with minimum walking.
About 5 a.m. that morning, everyone arrived at our house, all bundled up and bright-eyed with excitement. I surprised Mrs. Kohatsu with ozoni ready to serve; she thought for sure that they would miss eating new years mochi. No way, I told her. This is not the year to risk any bad luck! With a box of Winchell’s donuts and a thermos of hot coffee, they were off. Akemi and I stayed home to watch the parade on TV and to prepare lunch and dinner.
As we looked for our seats at the Rose Bowl, we headed farther and farther down, and farther and farther to the center. We had gotten tickets with the Bradfords and had no idea where we would end up. We were all amazed to be seated about 40 rows up from the field, nearly dead-on center. To top it off, another good friend then with UCLA who held a seat on the Rose Bowl operating board (because UCLA plays their home games at the Rose Bowl) had our seat numbers from Bing in advance and met us so anyone in our party could go down to the field wearing his field pass.
After the game, we had more food back at the house, and Akemi and I played some music as the big day drew to a close. That Stanford lost to Wisconsin did not mar the day. In fact, when Neal spoke at Bing’s memorial service three years later, he shared a lot of this special new years day out of a lifetime of happy memories together with Bing. This is one of my favorite photos of Wally and Ellen, which Bing took that day.
When I made plans for Akemi and me to visit Bing’s family, I didn’t know that Stanford would be playing tonight in the Fiesta Bowl. Ellen was happy to hear that we will be arriving in time to watch the game together. We are leaving Wisconsin and Oregon to their Rose Bowl festivities, as we hit I-5 north.
Happy new year, and go Stanford!