Longtime W-N official honored

RETIREMENT CELEBRATED — The Follansbee Chamber of Commerce held a retirement party at DeeJay’s BBQ Ribs and Grille for Noboru “Ricky” Onishi, who has retired from Nisshin Steel after 30 years, including 28 at Wheeling-Nisshin Inc. in Follansbee. On hand were, front, from left, Debbie Puskarich, chamber president; Tanner Okano, Wheeling-Nisshin chief executive officer and president; Onishi; Joe Sakai, Wheeling-Nisshin vice president of finance and accounting; and Charlotte Kolenc, chamber treasurer: and back, chamber members Olive McGee, Donna Henline and Eric Fithyan; Cindy Kocher, chamber secretary; and chamber members Carmela Espoito, Pat Accettolo and Pat Ford.

FOLLANSBEE — A local industrial leader and active community member has retired after working for more than 30 years in the Ohio Valley.

Members of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce wanted to express their appreciation for the efforts of Noboru “Ricky” Onishi, former head of Wheeling-Nisshin Steel, so they threw a retirement party for him at DeeJay’s BBQ Ribs and Grille in Weirton.

Joined by chamber members and the new management team at Wheeling-Nisshin, Onishi reflected on his tenure at the steel firm and working relationship with local community leaders.

A graduate of the University of Houston, Onishi had worked for steel industries in the U.S. and Japan, including more than 12 years in sales and product management with C Itoh and Co. and Pinkert Steel.

Joining Nisshin Steel in 1988, he held various positions before becoming general manager of its commercial department in 1990 and played a key role in the development that year of Wheeling-Nisshin, then a joint venture between the Japanese steel firm and Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel.

As head of Wheeling-Nisshin, he oversaw the growth of the steel firm’s customer base and product line, which includes five major hot dip coated products, making it unique among steel convert facilities in the U.S.

Onishi said he is proud of the addition to the plant’s products of ZAM, a zinc, aluminum and magnesium alloy developed by Nisshin Steel that is resistant to corrosion and scratching because it is nearly three times harder than commonly used galvanized coatings.

He noted the product may be used in solar panels, swimming pools, animal pens and anything exposed to weather and has been used locally in guardrails along Follansbee streets and in the new Brooke Middle School.

Wheeling-Nisshin has been a strong supporter of local schools, sponsoring scholarships for Brooke High School graduates for years.

About 10 years ago the company expanded the effort to include the award of multiple scholarships each year.

“We feel education is most important for young people, so we decided to raise the amount of the scholarships,”said Onishi.

Working with the Brooke County Schools Education Foundation, the steel firm has awarded about $275,000 in scholarships to Brooke graduates to date.

Onishi said he is thankful to the leaders of West Virginia, including former U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller and former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, as well as Follansbee Mayors Anthony Paesano and David Velegol Jr. and other leaders of the city and Brooke County.

“I think we’ve felt obligated to help Brooke County because of what they have done for us,” he said.

Onishi, who lives in Pittsburgh with his wife of 40 years, said he has enjoyed living and working in this region.

“The people are very friendly and there are a lot of things to do in the U.S.,” he said.

“The only thing we’re missing here is an ocean,” said Onishi.

He and his wife have three grown children, including two daughters living in the Pittsburgh area, and a son, who is a doctor living in San Diego.

While in the U.S., Onishi occasionally has visited family in Japan and he plans to see them again now that he’s retired. But he said he’s not ready to retire entirely and will take a little time off to consider his future work plans.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)