Glen Gondo, well-known Houston community leader and 'sushi king,' dies at 75

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Wednesday, July 3, 2024
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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Glen Yoshiaki Gondo, a pillar in Houston's Asian as well as business communities, has died after a brief battle with cancer. He was 75 years old.

Gondo was well known for his sushi catering business, his dedication to Asian American causes, and his generosity to Houston's philanthropic community. He made his impact through quiet action, never looking to shine a light on himself but instead highlighting those around him at every opportunity he could.

Born in 1948, Gondo's life view was shaped, in part, by the fact that his family was interred in camps during World War II. Gondo knew firsthand how important it is for all Americans, no matter their background, to be treated with dignity and respect. He wanted everyone to have an opportunity to achieve the American dream.

After WWII, Gondo's family started several businesses. For Houstonians, the Gondo family was known to have opened the first Japanese restaurant in town, Tokyo Gardens. That restaurant brought Gondo to Houston, where he stayed.

After the family restaurant closed, Gondo turned his attention to catering. He started several ventures, including Tokyo Gardens Catering and Sushic, LLC. Those businesses have grown to operate hundreds of sushi kiosks in all H-E-B grocery stores. In addition, Gondo's sushi can be found in Houston hotels, schools, and even on Tokyo-bound flights from Houston.

As his business grew, Glen Gondo immersed himself in the Houston community. He founded the Houston Japan Festival, now a two-day event at Hermann Park attended by thousands every year. He served on numerous boards, including the Japan American Society of Houston and Asia Society Texas.

In 2013, Gondo was honored by the Japanese government with the Spring Imperial Decoration for his contributions to improving people's understanding of Japanese culture.

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Although he occasionally gave interviews, Gondo never wanted to talk about his personal success. Instead, he would talk about working to improve the generations that would come after him. He told the story of how he founded the first Asian Republicans group in Houston but would later on also help start an Asian Democrats group. The goal, he would say, was not about being political but just to make sure everyone had a voice, even if their opinions differed from his own.

Whenever he donated funds to a cause, and someone thanked him, Glen Gondo would simply ask that they would stand up for Asian Americans. Gondo's latest project was to help raise money for the proposed National Asian Pacific American History in Washington, D.C.

Another story Glen Gondo would often tell is how he first met his wife, Kathy, when they were both in sixth grade. In 2023, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Besides Kathy, Gondo is survived by his son, Robert, and daughter-in-law, Jaewon.

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