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Hilo Lawmaker Rep. Clift Tsuji Dies

November 15, 2016, 3:49 PM HST · Updated November 15, 3:57 PM
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Rep. Clift Tsuji

Rep. Clift Tsuji. PC: Hawaii House Blog

Hawaiʻi Representative Clift Tsuji, 75, passed away at the Queen’s Medical Center on Oʻahu today.

Tsuji represented House District 2 including Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Panaʻewa and Waiākea on Hawaiʻi Island.

His family has requested privacy at this time and services are pending.

Tsuji was born on Jan. 20, 1941 and was raised in the Big Island’s plantation town of Pāpaʻikou. He is a 1959 graduate of Hilo High School and completed his post-secondary degrees at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the University of Washington, Pacific Coast Banking School.

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Rep. Tsuji was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2004 and was chairman of the Agriculture Committee. Among his many awards he was named the Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau’s Legislator of the Year Award in 2015.

Tsuji served in the US Army Reserve, 442nd Infantry, Company B, Hilo, from 1959-1965.

He was also active with the Hilo Medical Center Foundation, Hawaiʻi Island Japanese Community Association, Pacific Tsunami Museum, Hiroshima Kenjin Kai, Hawaiʻi Island Chamber of Commerce, and the Kumamoto Kenjin Kai.

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Condolences in remembrance of Tsuji poured in as fellow lawmakers and dignitaries learned of his passing.

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i): “My deepest condolences to the family and many friends of Representative Clift Tsuji.  Rep. Tsuji was low-key in style but a firm fighter for the needs of the people of the Big Island.  He will be especially remembered for his advocacy of agriculture and its essential role in the economy and culture of Hawai‘i.  Clift was earnest, hard-working, and always had a kind word for people.  He will be greatly missed.”

Governor David Y. Ige: “Representative Clift Tsuji was a quiet man with a big heart who had the courage to stand for his convictions. He was a passionate leader and a vigorous advocate for the Hilo community. His legacy of service will be remembered by his constituents and all Hawaii Island residents. He was a personal friend, and I am going to miss his presence at the State Capitol. Dawn and I send our condolences to his sons, Ryan and Ashley.”

Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui: “My deepest condolences go out to the ohana of Representative Clift Tsuji during this very difficult time.  Clift leaves behind a legacy as a strong voice for the people and a staunch advocate for Hawaii’s agriculture community.  I will always remember Clift’s booming voice coupled with his friendly and approachable nature.  Those who were fortunate to have known him will also remember his kindness and the aloha he shared with the countless people he touched.  He will be missed.”

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague Rep. Clift Tsuji. He will be remembered for his hard work supporting Hawaii’s agriculture, his commitment to the residents of his district, and his warm and ready smile. On behalf of the Hawaii State Senate, our deepest condolences to the Tsuji family.”

House Speaker Joseph Souki (Maui): “We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Rep. Tsuji. Clift who was a great public servant and a close personal friend,” said House Speaker Joseph Souki. “He loved his family, Hawaii and the communities he represented. He will be greatly missed.  Our condolences and aloha go out to his friends and family from everyone at the legislature.”

Senator Kaialiʻi Kahele (District 1, Hilo)“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Representative Clift Tsuji today. A proud graduate of Hilo High School, Clift represented Hilo honorably for over 12 years in the House of Representatives. He proudly wore our nations uniform in the 442nd Infantry and was recognized as the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau’s Legislator of the Year in 2015. I will always remember his warm smile, friendship and encouragement he extended to me as a new legislator at the Capitol. He leaves behind a legacy of service, hope and a better Hawaiʻi for our children. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, many friends and his sons Ashley Allen and Ryan Kalei.”

Rep. Lynn DeCoite (District 13, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Maui): “Rep. Tsuji was a giant!  I’m at a loss of words – he was one of my favorite people at the Capitol.  I learned so much from him these past two years and looked to him as a mentor.  He truly loved his work at the legislature and it showed in everything that he did.  My heart goes out to his family.  Rest In Peace Rep. Tsuji.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell: “Clift Tsuji was a friend. He was a decent, gentle man who cared so much about his community. He had much more to give and his passing is a tragic event for all of Hawai‘i. My thoughts are with his children Ashley and Ryan Kalei and his entire ‘ohana.”

Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi: “It is with great sadness to learn that Representative Clift Tsuji has passed away. As a Hilo native, I knew Clift and his commitment to his community and public service. Two weeks ago we spoke about his district and he expressed his support for the educational progress made. Sincere condolences go out to his family during this difficult time. He will be greatly missed.”

 

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