Maui News

Colleagues Mourn Passing of Congressman Mark Takai

July 20, 2016, 1:05 PM HST
* Updated July 20, 5:05 PM
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Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Mark Takai share in an embrace following their exchange about Takai’s pancreas cancer and the Vice President’s late son, Beau. (File Photo courtesy of Phi Nguyen via office of US Rep. Mark Takai)

Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Mark Takai share in an embrace following their exchange about Takai’s pancreas cancer and the Vice President’s late son, Beau. (File Photo courtesy of Phi Nguyen via office of US Rep. Mark Takai)

US Congressman Mark Takai (HI-01), 49, died today from pancreatic cancer.

Takai served in the House of Representatives for 20 years before his election to Congress in 2014.

According to his biography on his congressional website, Takai was born and raised on Oʻahu.

He was an alumnus of Pearl City High School and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He swam for the University of Hawaiʻi throughout his undergrad years and also served as the Student Body President.

He is survived by his wife Sami and two children, Matthew and Kaila.

US Congressman Mark Takai. Photo credit:

US Congressman Mark Takai. Photo credit:


Takai is also a 17 year member of the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard, holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was deployed to the Middle East as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Takai was a 20 year member of the Hawaiʻi State House of Representatives before being elected to Congress. He represented the district of ʻAiea/Pearl City, first winning his seat at the age of 27.

On May 19, 2016, Takai announced his decision to step down from Congress after serving out the remainder of his term due to health concerns.

At the time, he said:

“When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, my family and I resolved to fight it head-on and with deep personal faith. Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads. I had truly hoped to aggressively fight this cancer while seeking re-election, but I recently learned that my cancer has spread.


On June 1, 2016, he endorsed Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa in the First District of Hawaiʻi Congressional race.

Condolences have been pouring in from dignitaries across the state and nation on the passing of Congressman Takai.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

“I’m deeply saddened today as we mourn the passing of my friend, colleague, and fellow soldier, Congressman Mark Takai. I’m grateful to have known and worked with Mark for over a decade. With a servant’s heart, full of aloha, he dedicated his life to serving the people of Hawaiʻi and our nation, in the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard, and in Congress. I had the good fortune of serving with Mark in all three of these capacities, and saw firsthand that no matter where he was, he always kept his service to Hawaiʻi’s people at the forefront of his actions. Mark’s smiling face and ready laugh will truly be missed, but the impact that he made through his life of service to the people of Hawaiʻi will always be remembered. My heart and prayers are with Sami, Matthew, Kaila, and all of Mark’s family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

Senator Mazie K. Hirono:

“Mark Takai was a devoted public servant who was committed to bettering our state and country in public office for more than two decades. He also gave back to his community as a celebrated champion collegiate swimmer, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and a devoted family man.

“I affectionately called Mark my younger brother. We shared so many of the same values and supported each other during challenging times. Mark’s passing is a tremendous loss for all of us who loved him, and for the state of Hawaii. But he said it best- ‘as often happens, we find ourselves on a different journey than we had planned.’ While we find that our journey is not as bright without Mark, we will continue his work to make Hawaii a better place. My thoughts and aloha go to his wife Sami, his children Matthew and Kaila, and the Takai ʻohana.”

US Senator Brian Schatz:

“This is the deepest of losses and one that I feel very personally because of my friendship with Mark.  Throughout his life, he was all about serving the people of Hawai‘i.  He gave so much, and had so much more yet to give.  My condolences to his wife Sami, his children, his parents, and his whole ohana, whose pride and support meant everything to Mark.  This is a sad day for all of Hawai‘i.”

Governor David Ige:

“Today, the people of Hawai‘i mourn the passing of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai. He proudly served his country in uniform, including 17 years with the Hawai‘i Army National Guard. Mark humbly and effectively served the people of his state House and Congressional districts. In the often tumultuous world of politics, he has been a shining example of what it means to be a public servant.

While we will deeply feel the loss of Mark Takai in the public arena, we cannot forget that he was a family man first. His wife, children and extended family will miss him every moment from this day on. Dawn and I extend our deepest sympathies to Sami, Matthew and Kaila. Your husband and father was a man of principle and goodwill. Thank you for sharing him with the citizens of Hawai‘i.”

Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui:

“It is with a heavy heart that I send my sincere condolences to the family of Congressman Mark Takai.  Mark was an admirable public servant and a champion on issues important to his district and the people of Hawaii.  As a fellow University of Hawaii alumnus, I appreciated his strong advocacy and support for the University, especially the athletics program that played such a prominent role in his life.  I’ve had the privilege of working with Mark at the Legislature and am honored to have been able to call him a friend.  During this difficult time, my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sami and their two children.  He will be dearly missed.”

House Speaker Joe Souki:

“Mark was a thoughtful and caring public servant and a good friend to all us in the State House.  To say that he will be missed is not just a cliché but a heavy and sad reality,” said House Speaker Joseph Souki  “As much as Mark had accomplished in his full life, there was so much more he wanted to do and would have done—for himself and his family, and for all us here in Hawaii.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Sami and their children Matthew and Kaila and all of the Takai ohana in this very difficult time.”

Hawaiʻi State Senate:

Our hearts our heavy today as we mourn the passing of U.S. Rep. K. Mark Takai. 

Through his service in the Hawai‘i Army National Guard, as a State Representative and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Takai embodied selflessness, honor and duty – the best of what it means to be a public servant.  Congressman Takai served the constituents in his district and the state with integrity and demonstrated the tenants of aloha as a son of Hawai‘i.

During this difficult time, we send our deepest sympathy and aloha paumākō to the Takai family.

Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele

“I am deeply saddened by the news of U.S. Representative K. Mark Takai’s death. He served our State and our Country honorably as a public servant, elected official, and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Hawai‘i Army National Guard.

He was known on Capitol Hill for his aloha spirit and unwavering commitment to improving the lives of Hawai‘i families. Rep. Takai lived the Spirit of Aloha.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to Representative Takai’s family, especially Sami, Matthew and Kaila in their time of grief.”

Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi: DPH Chair Tim Vandeveer

“The Democratic Party of Hawai‘i is deeply saddened by today’s passing of Congressman K. Mark Takai. Congressman Takai’s honorable service to our state and country as an officer in the Hawai’i National Guard, twenty-year member of Hawai’i’s State House of Representatives, and U.S. Congressman will leave an enduring legacy. Mark will forever be a member of Hawaii’s Democratic ‘ohana and we send our aloha and support to the Takai family, friends, and supporters during this difficult time.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

“Upon hearing this sad news, my immediate thoughts were with Mark and his entire family. I was lucky to have worked with Mark in the State House and the commitment and dedication he had for his country, his state and Hawai‘i’s many diverse communities was obvious to all. Whether on deployment with the Hawai‘i Army National Guard, debating national security issues in Congress, or simply providing a helping hand for various community projects, Mark served with vigor and energy, and his presence and sound reasoning will be sorely missed. On behalf of everyone at the City and County of Honolulu, I send my condolences and love to Mark’s wife Sami, their two children Matthew and Kaila, and his parents Erik and Naomi.”

Maui County Council Chair Mike White:

“I am saddened to hear of Congressman Mark Takai’s passing. We served together in the State Legislature and I met with him earlier this year in Washington D.C. to discuss issues impacting Hawaii’s counties. Despite representing Congressional District 1, he still wanted to hear how he could help Maui County. He always wanted to better our state, and find ways to better our lives. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Takai ‘ohana. I join my Maui County Council colleagues in bidding him a fond aloha.”

Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald:

“It is with a heavy heart that we learned of the passing of U.S. Representative Mark Takai. He was a true public servant in every sense of the word — from serving our country in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard, representing ʻAiea/Pearl City in the state legislature for 20 years, and carrying the aloha spirit to the US House of Representatives.

Representative Takai was also a strong supporter of the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary’s Veterans Treatment Court and its outreach efforts. He went out of his way to consistently recognize and encourage the participants, team members, and mentors involved in this program.

We thank him for his service and commitment to the people of Hawaiʻi and our nation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.”

Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi:

“We are deeply saddened to learn that Congressman Mark Takai has passed. He was a true friend of public education, and he will be greatly missed.

Throughout his time in elected office in state and federal government, he was a staunch advocate for Hawaiʻi’s public schools. Congressman Takai advocated tirelessly for funding and resources to help the Department’s efforts in providing quality education for all children.

Mark was also a proud public school graduate of Pearl City High. He was a role model and remains an example of leadership and service to communities.

On behalf of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education, I extend my heartfelt condolences and aloha to the Takai family during this difficult time.”

University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner:

The University of Hawaiʻi lost an extraordinary member of our ʻohana today. Everyone associated with UH will always remember Representative K. Mark Takai as not only a dedicated public servant and family man, but also as a proud and highly engaged UH Mānoa graduate.

Mark was a championship swimmer for UH Mānoa, ASUH student government president and editor-in-chief of the Ka Leo student newspaper. Everyone who knew him on the Mānoa campus knew he was destined for great things. And, as he advanced in his career, Mark continued to be a passionate supporter of higher education and the University of Hawaiʻi.

After graduating from UH Mānoa and before his election to Congress, Mark committed to serving our nation and our state in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard and in the State House, where he served for 20 years. As the chair of the Committee on Higher Education, he worked especially closely with UH leadership to advance the university.

Representative Takai was a role model for many, and all of us will miss him personally and professionally.

Our hearts go out to his parents Erik and Naomi, his wife Sami, also a member of our UH ʻohana, his children Kaila and Matthew and the rest of his family and friends. We thank them all for sharing him with us and we grieve together, knowing that we are all better for having known and worked with Representative K. Mark Takai.

George D. Szigeti, President and CEO, Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority

“We all lose with the passing of Mark Takai. Mark had the qualities we should all strive to achieve, being a family man first and foremost and a proud patriot of our country. I appreciated that he was always accessible, and that he always offered his help to do what was best for Hawaiʻi and its future. Our thoughts are with his wife, children and extended ʻohana. May they be blessed with the strength of the memories of all that Mark accomplished for his community, Hawaiʻi and the nation.”

Picture of U.S. Representative Mark Takai from his recent appearance in the short video celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and Hawaii's Fishing Industry. Photo courtesy: Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Picture of US Representative Mark Takai from his recent appearance in the short video celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and Hawaii’s Fishing Industry. Photo courtesy: Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council

Today’s passing of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii) brings much sadness to Hawaii’s fishing community. A strong supporter of local fishermen, Takai recently appeared in a short video celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and Hawaii’s fishing industry.

“Rep. Takai always welcomed members of the fishing community to meet with him, whether in D.C. or here in Hawai’i,” reminisced Kitty M. Simonds, executive director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. “He listened to our concerns about the fisheries and helped spread the news about their importance to the state and the nation in regards to economics, food security and social and cultural cohesion.”

“Hawaii’s fishing community will miss his warmth and sincerity,” said Council Chair Edwin Ebisui Jr. “He understood the long hours and hardships, including the regulatory ones, that fishermen and others in the industry face. And he relished the fresh poke Hawaii enjoys as a result of those efforts.”

Hillary Clinton:

“The loss of Congressman Mark Takai will be felt keenly from Washington to Honolulu. Mark was everything a public servant should be. He spent his entire life in service of his state and his country–from the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard to the Hawaiʻi State House to the House of Representatives–fighting to make sure veterans and their families are supported, supporting ambitious steps to protect his state and our planet from the perils of climate change, and championing the rights of Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiian communities. I am grateful to Mark for his friendship and deeply honored to have earned his support. My thoughts and prayers are with Mark’s family and friends, and especially with his wife Sami and his children Matthew and Kaila.”

University of Hawaiʻi Athletics Director David Matlin:

“Our dear friend Mark Takai was a beloved member of the University of Hawaiʻi Athletics ʻohana and proud UHMānoa alumnus. His association with UH Athletics spanned four decades beginning as a four-year letterman for our swim team from 1985–89 where he was a Western Athletic Conference champion as part of the 4×100 medley relay. Throughout his life, Mark was one of our biggest supporters through his involvement with Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi, Athletics Advisory Board, Letterwinners Club and as an elected official, where he tirelessly worked for the betterment of our student-athletes and sports programs.

In 2012, the Letterwinners Club recognized Mark with the Kāne Fernandez Award for his unselfish support of UH Athletics in the community. On behalf of the UH Athletics Department, our thoughts and prayers are with Mark’s family and friends. This is tremendous loss to not only the UH Athletics Department but our entire state. Mark will forever be a Rainbow Warrior.”

Hawaiʻi Lodging & Tourism Association, CEO Mufi Hannemann:

“The members of the Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association are very saddened over the untimely passing of Congressman Mark Takai and join in extending our condolences to Sami and the Takai ʻohana.

We’ve lost not only a dedicated public servant but a friend to the hospitality industry. Since his election, Mark has been a strong voice for tourism in Washington. He was always open to our concerns and ideas, and was devoted to strengthening the industry. He championed legislation to restore draconian cuts to travel per diem rates in the Department of Defense budget and had a history of advocating for military affiliated meetings and conventions to be held in Hawaii. He met with our HLTA leadership just a few months ago and we were heartened to know at the time that his commitment to doing his very best for Hawai‘i was undiminished by his illness.

On a personal note, I knew Mark since he was president of the University of Hawaii’s student government and worked closely with him over the years as a City Councilmember, mayor, and in other endeavors. He was always enthusiastic, energetic, and full of ideas. In fact, he suggested to me to start the Mayor’s Remembrance Walk, the annual observance of the September 11 attacks in Honolulu.

Our families were close and we shared many precious moments together. Mark will be missed as a representative of the islands, an advocate for our people, a leader, and a dear friend.”

Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi

“Today, the State of Hawaiʻi lost one of our finest public servants, Representative Mark Takai.

I had the honor of knowing Representative Takai and am proud to have called him a friend. I met him ten years ago, when I started with the Chamber’s Government Affairs Department. He was one of the first lawmakers that I met and got to know well. I still remember our first meeting at Art’s Hideway like it was yesterday. We talked about sports, family and careers in public service. Because I was new to advocacy work, he graciously shared his advice on navigating the legislative process, connected me with others and always checked-in to see how I was doing. Mark was passionate, genuine, outgoing and a people person.

At our Hawaiʻi on the Hill Welcome Reception in Washington DC this past June, we had the opportunity to present a Certificate of Appreciation to Representative Takai through his Deputy Chief of Staff for all that he has done to support the business community and our state.

On behalf of the Chamber ʻohana, we extend our sincere condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Sami, children Matt and Kaila, his parents and everyone who was touched by Mark. He has certainly left a permanent footprint of positive change and a proud legacy as part our state’s history. We will miss you, Representative Takai.”

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