American Go E-Journal

In Memoriam: Dr. Heidi Kirschner

Thursday November 8, 2012

Doctor Heidi Kirschner died at her home in Seattle on November 1. She was 99 years old. A beloved elder of the American go community, Kirschner helped build the local go scene in Seattle, WA; and her son, Chris, is also a longtime local and national go organizer currently serving on the boards of the Seattle Go Center, the American Go Foundation, and the American Go Association.

Heidi Kirschner was 9 kyu when she arrived in the US from Austria in October 1939, with her husband Franz, also a 9 kyu — and the suitor who was willing to learn go from her. Clutching the then-customary single suitcase that could be squeezed out of Nazi-controlled Europe at that time, Kirschner was, even at 9K, probably the strongest Caucasian woman in the US at that time. In that suitcase was a cardboard go board with wooden stones on which her son Chris, born less than two days after her arrival in Seattle, would learn to play at age 6, shortly after the end of the war.

Kirschner learned go from her mother and an uncle who had visited Japan with the Austrian navy around 1900 and picked it up there.  She grew up in Vienna, the daughter of Ludwig Moszkowicz, a prominent surgeon in Vienna, Austria, and Elizabeth, director of the first nursing school in Austria.  In 1937 Kirschner graduated from the University of Vienna Medical School and at the family graduation party met an American woman, Mildred Lemon from Olympia, Washington, who in 1939 sponsored the immigration of Heidi and Franz to Seattle, where she raised four children before returning to the practice of medicine in 1958, joining her husband in his solo practice.  She retired in 1977 but continued to teach early childhood development part time at the UW Medical School.

As early as 1961, when the American go scene was concentrated in New York City and San Francisco, Kirschner put Seattle on the map by hosting Iwamoto Kaoru 9P during his tour of the United States that year. And her home was often the site for go events like a teaching session a few years later for local Caucasian players when a trio of women professionals — Reiko Kitani, and Sachiko Honda and Teruko — from Japan visited.  With son Chris directing, and assuring her she was not too weak at 9K, she  attended the US Go Congress in Seattle in 1995, and was a fixture at many subsequent Go Congresses as well as at local events at the Seattle Go Center.

As her mother before her, and her son after, Heidi Kirschner believed strongly that go could be an instrument of peace, a belief also shared by  Iwamoto, the Japanese professional go player – and Hiroshima survivor — who funded the Seattle Go Center as part of a mini-network of go centers founded in New York City, Amsterdam, Sao Paolo and Seattle to support the spread of go worldwide.
- photo by Phil Straus

Categories: U.S./North America