Maui News

Hawaii’s Senior Senator Dies, Inouye’s Last Words are “Aloha”

December 17, 2012, 1:15 PM HST
* Updated December 18, 7:58 AM
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US Sen. Daniel Inouye, file photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

US Senator Daniel K. Inouye took his last breaths at 5:01 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (12.01 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time) on Monday, December 17, 2012, following respiratory complications.

He was hospitalized at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where his last rites were performed by Senate Chaplain Dr. Barry Black, with his wife Irene, and his son Ken at his side.

Senator Inouye was a World War II veteran, Medal of Honor recipient, and Hawaii’s senior senator. During his eight decades of public service, he helped build and shape Hawaii, and as the most senior senator, was the third in line for presidential succession.

Senator Inouye began his career in public service at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the US Army shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  He served with ‘E’ company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting entirely of Americans of Japanese ancestry. During his service, Senator Inouye lost his arm charging a series of machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945.  His actions during that battle earned him the Medal of Honor.

US Senator Daniel Inouye, courtesy photo.


Following the war he returned to Hawaii and married Margaret “Maggie” Awamura, and graduated from the University of Hawaii and the George Washington University School of Law.


After receiving his law degree, Senator Inouye, office staff say he returned to Hawaii and worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney for the City and County of Honolulu. Recognizing the social and racial inequities of post-war Hawaii, he joined the Democratic movement that took control of the Territorial Legislature in 1954.

Following statehood in 1959, Senator Inouye served as Hawaii’s first congressman. He then ran for US Senate in 1962 where he served for nearly nine consecutive terms.

US Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawai’i chatted with 8th-grader Lindzi Takasaki and 2010 Maui High School graduate Bryce Ribucan on stage during a recent Ke Ala Hele Education Fund dinner and auction at the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui. “They’ve got a good future,” Inouye said about Takasaki, Ribucan and the thousands of students benefiting from MEDB’s educational initiatives in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Courtesy file photo.

“Senator Inouye spent his career building an enduring federal presence in Hawaii to ensure that the state would receive its fair share of federal resources,” according to a statement released by office staff today.  “He worked to expand the military’s presence on all major islands, stabilizing Pearl Harbor, building up the Pacific Missile Range and constructing a headquarters for the United States Pacific Command,” the document statement.


Senator Inouye was also credited with working to build critical roads, expand bus services statewide, and secure federal funds for the Honolulu Rail Transit project. He also championed the indigenous rights of native Hawaiians and the return of Kahoolawe, and is credited for fighting for the rights and benefits of veterans.

Senator Inouye left “an indelible mark at the University of Hawaii, including support for major facilities and research assets. He has long supported local agriculture and alternative energy initiatives,” said a statement released from his office today.

Senator Inouye “was always among the first to speak out against injustice whether interned Japanese Americans, Filipino World War II veterans, Native Americans and native Hawaiians,” the document stated.

On the national stage, Senator Inouye served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Commerce Committee and was the first Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

As a bipartisan workhorse, he was asked by the Senate leadership to chair the special committee investigating the Iran Contra Affair.  This was after a successful tenure as a member of the Watergate Committee.

Senator Inouye is survived by his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, his son Daniel Ken Inouye Jr., Ken’s wife Jessica, and granddaughter Maggie and step-daughter Jennifer Hirano. He was preceded in death by is first wife, Maggie Awamura.

Senator Inouye’s family extended thanks to the doctors, nurses and staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for the care he received.

When asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, Senator Inouye said, very simply, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.”

His last words were “Aloha.”

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