Grant Freerks Dies


A well-known name in the US, European and Japanese amusement games industry from the 1980s and 1990s, Grant Freerks of Taito Corporation, has died. Apparently Grant passed away on June 28, but due to the long period of absence from the industry, news is only just filtering through.

He was a major link between the three main global video games markets during the heyday of the Taito Space Invaders game and subsequent games. A fluent Japanese speaker, Grant was based in all three continents at different times, but mostly in London, looking after the European market.

He was, however a familiar figure at Japanese trade shows through those two decades, only leaving Taito when the company went public.

Grant “Woody” Freerks was born September 7, 1948, to Harm and Luella (Baumann) Freerks of Little Rock, IA. He graduated from Little Rock High School in 1966. He joined the United States Navy in 1968 and served in Sasebo, Japan.  After his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1972 Grant settled in Los Angeles, CA.  He attended and graduated from Cal State, Long Beach, CA with a degree in Business.

Grant and Ritsuko Tokunaga were married May 5, 1972 in Las Vegas, NV.  They made their home in the Los Angeles area until they moved to Tokyo, Japan in 1979.

Grant was Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Taito Corporation, a world-wide video game maker. He, Ritsuko and their two sons, Alex and Nick lived in London for several years where Grant continued his duties with Taito.  They moved back to Tokyo in the early 90s where they lived until his death on June 28, 2017.

Grant was an “avid” hockey fan.  Especially a fan of the L.A. Kings.  He would watch all the Kings games on the internet. (that is all he liked about L.A.)   He did, at times, complain when he had to listen to Russian announcers calling  the Kings games.  He also enjoyed listening to the Rolling Stones and sharing his conservative and Christian views.  Even though he lived in Japan, he was very relieved that Hillary was not elected.

Left to cherish Grant’s memories are his wife Ritsuko of Tokyo, son Alex and his wife Norie and daughter Lily of Tokyo, son Nick and his wife Minsun of Warren, MI.  Grant’s sisters Merla Rust and Nancy Boumann and brothers Harlan and Randall. He was preceded in death by his parents, sister Marlys Alwine, brothers-in-law Curtis Alwine and Arnold Boumann

From his brother Randal : “He certainly liked to have fun. Full of mischief, especially when attending school.  He’d challenge any teacher with his wit.  I didn’t realize how bright he was until later on in life. (shame on me).  He was a very good 3rd baseman on fast pitch softball teams, and played basketball for the high school team. (there is a catch to that however, the high school had about 75 students).  He and I joined the Navy together, went to Navy boot camp together (this was during the Vietnam war).  His orders sent him to Sasebo for duty.  That is where/how he met his wife Ritsuko.  When his enlistment with the Navy ended, he relocated to the Los Angeles area.  (we had a sister and brother-in-law living there).  After a short period of time, (don’t know how long, maybe a year or so) Ritsuko was able to make her way to LA.  A year or so later they were married.  He was a plywood salesman for a wholesaler.  He really liked Japan, so after a few years of selling plywood and not really getting ahead in life, they moved to Tokyo.  One thing about Grant, he was not real forthcoming with information about himself or his family when he was living in Tokyo.  With that being said, I don’t know how he got the job with Taito.

From what I gather, he traveled extensively while working for Taito.  Then when computers started to wipe out the video gamers he was downsized out of his position. He moved back to the States around 2003 and worked for a credit card company for a while and lived in Jacksonville, FL.  He went back to Tokyo the weekend that Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans.  My wife and I, another sister of ours, and our nephew were able to attend Grant’s younger son’s wedding in Napa Valley two years ago this month.  He had already been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at that time.  We said our good byes.  (me with tears, he was too tough for tears) We did chat frequently during the NHL seasons via Facebook.  Both of us are avid fans.  He was a very nice person, and the ultimate conservative.”

by David Snook with reporting from Norman Leftly

Comments (1)

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Very sad news

Another character lost to the industry

Steve short
16/09/2017, 11:22

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