TOKYO (AP) — Tetsuko Itagaki, who was a secretary for five AP Tokyo bureau chiefs from 1958 until she retired in 1989, has died in Tokyo. She was 96.

Itagaki suffered a fall at an assisted living home in early April and became progressively weaker, according to her nephew, Atsushi Takeuchi. She died May 7.

The funeral service was attended only by relatives because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to assisting bureau leaders at a time when Tokyo was a hub of AP Asia operations, Itagaki served a key role by patiently helping a staff that had dozens of Japanese nationals as well as expatriate correspondents. As her role grew, she began to consider the members of the bureau as part of her own family.

“It is no exaggeration to say that she was the linchpin of the bureau, often serving as a buffer between the strong personalities of the bureau chiefs and the staff, but also ready with a vast intellectual repertoire, including an intimate knowledge of the Bible, which often came in handy,” said Valerie Komor, director of AP Corporate Archives, who in October 2010 interviewed Itagaki and other Japanese staff for the company records.

Itagaki came from an academic family and studied English language and literature.

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“It was a very interesting, exciting, occupation,” Itagaki said in the 2010 interview, recalling her front—row seat for the political assassinations, demonstrations, typhoons and Olympics that the bureau covered.

“I wouldn’t have worked for (an) oil company or trading company. … Everybody recognized the name AP. ‘So you work for The Associated Press?’ … I was so proud. I was glad I worked for the AP.”

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Shigeyoshi Kimura joined AP as a copy boy in 1957 and retired in 2002 after many years as a reporter.