It was 1990 and St. Paul’s mayor at the time, Jim Scheibel, was visiting Nagasaki, Japan, and its Peace Park. That’s when he noticed something not quite right in St. Paul’s sister city, the second Japanese city to be hit with an atomic bomb during World War II: There was no sculpture from St. Paul or Minnesota in the quiet, contemplative park.
That wouldn’t do, Scheibel thought. After all, the cities had been linked for years, having formed an enduring friendship as sister cities only 10 years after the war’s end.
“So we decided to do something about it,” Scheibel said Thursday.
He set about raising money to put a Minnesota sculpture — Paul Granlund’s Constellation Earth — in Nagasaki’s Peace Park. When Scheibel returned to Nagasaki in 1992, it was to attend the sculpture’s installation ceremony.
On Thursday, the current mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, presented the former mayor of St. Paul with a certificate of appreciation for Scheibel’s work to promote peace and understanding between the two cities. This year, the 70th since Nagasaki was devastated by the bomb that would help finally end the war, is also the 60th year of its sister-city relationship with St. Paul.
Anniversary events this weekend include a Native American peace pipe ceremony at St. Paul City Hall and the opening of the Nagasaki Peace Exhibition at Landmark Center on Friday. Taue will throw out the first pitch at a St. Paul Saints game on Saturday and visit a Japanese lantern-lighting ceremony at Como Park on Sunday.
But Thursday at the St. Paul Hotel’s Promenade Ballroom, it was about recognizing Scheibel’s work to promote peace. The cities’ sister-city relationship is the oldest between a Japanese and an American city, and Scheibel became a convincing fundraiser upon his return to Minnesota, said Frank Parisi, a former vice president of communications for Cray Research.
Scheibel’s first fundraising stop was at Cray, Parisi said. He was so convincing, Cray CEO John A. Rollwagen decided to pick up the entire cost, Parisi said.
“He was looking for $1,000 or so,” Parisi said of Scheibel, who planned a series of visits to area corporations. Instead, Rollwagen agreed to pay the $40,000 or so — thanks to a steep discount by Granlund — that the sculpture cost. “The ‘right’ of it made too much sense for us not to step up,” Parisi recalled Rollwagen saying.
With help from interpreters on Thursday, Scheibel and Taue said their cities still embrace a peaceful relationship they hope lasts at least another 60 years.
“We will all join together in the journey for peace,” Scheibel said.