KAHULUI - Maui bid aloha to U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye on Saturday.
Master of ceremonies Tony Takitani said that the gathering of family, friends and admirers in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater was a celebration of life for Inouye.
And, "what an incredible life it was," he said.
A photo montage shows some highlights of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s career on the national stage and in Hawaii before the start of Saturday’s memorial service in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Inouye was a leading figure in the political revolution that swept Democrats into control in Hawaii in 1954. He entered Congress at the dawn of statehood and was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962. He was a World War II hero, winner of the Medal of Honor, a statesman and a friend. Inouye died Dec. 17. He was 88.
"I think he loved our island more than all the rest," Takitani said. "At least he made us feel that way."
Mayor Alan Arakawa thanked Inouye's widow, Irene Hirano Inouye, and the rest of the late senator's family for allowing Neighbor Island residents the opportunity to celebrate his life.
The Maui remembrance was the last for the Neighbor Islands. Memorial services were held Thursday on the Big Island and Friday on Kauai. He was eulogized in services Dec. 23 at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in a service that included President Barack Obama.
The Maui event was more low key.
Inouye never forgot Maui County or the Neighbor Islands, Arakawa said, adding that his first question always was: "What can we do to help you in Maui County?"
From the supercomputer in Kihei to telescope facilities atop Haleakala, Inouye was always looking for projects for Maui, Arakawa said.
"There are no words to describe how grateful we are," he said.
Arakawa emphasized how the senator, despite being "larger than life," was down to earth and speaking to him would be like talking to an uncle or a neighbor.
"Somehow we all felt we knew Senator Inouye personally," he said. "He was one of us. He was our senior senator."
Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, who ascended to the state's second-highest office last week as a result of a political domino effect set off by Inouye's death, fought back emotion as he spoke of the late senator.
"For me, it's hard to imagine he's no longer with us," he said. "Maui will never forget Senator Inouye because he never forgot about us."
He said Inouye will never be replaced, but collectively, Hawaii citizens "can all work together and follow the example he set for all of us."
House Speaker Emeritus and Wailuku Rep. Joe Souki fondly remembered Inouye.
"He was always thinking about what kind of future we could build for our young people," he said. "Dan Inouye was the right man for the right time for our young state."
Maui County Council Member Riki Hokama of Lanai told the gathering of about 600 people how important Inouye was to residents of Lanai. There, the Kaumalapau Harbor breakwater was heavily damaged by Hurricane Iwa in November 1982 and by Hurricane Iniki in September 1992.
The harbor "is the lifeline of the island," he said. But needed repairs were delayed by bureaucratic wrangling.
Eventually, Inouye decided to insert money into the federal budget for repairs, and, through an obscure congressional provision, was able to get $3 million to make the harbor a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility, Hokama said.
"It changed the lives of every resident of Lanai."
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Colette Machado, calling herself a "Molokai tita," recalled how Inouye defended her when people complained about her being the senator's Molokai island representative in the mid-1990s.
"I was really rough, outspoken," she said, and she worried that Inouye would give her "gas" when people complained about her.
Instead, Inouye wrote a letter to her detractors, saying he was satisfied with her and his other Neighbor Island representatives and reminding them that Native Hawaiians had their land taken away illegally during the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, and "I believe we have a bit to repay."
Machado said Inouye was a friend to Native Hawaiians and helped provide federal support for agriculture on Molokai and for historic preservation at Kalaupapa.
Inouye also received tribute from his comrades in arms, the veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion. The veterans, as well as Korean War and other veterans, were given seats of honor near the stage in the Castle Theater.
In a moment not on the remembrance program, the 442nd veterans were invited to sing their "Go For Broke" song.
"Four Forty Second Infantry
We are the boys of Hawaii nei
We will fight for you
And the red white and blue
And will go the front
And back to Honolulu-lu-lu
Fighting for dear old Uncle Sam
Go for broke we don't give a damn
We will round up the huns
At the point of a gun
And victory will be ours
Go for broke! Four Four Two!
Go for broke! Four Four Two!
And victory will be ours."
Before the memorial service, Kula resident Suzanne Nakata, a member of the I Company Associates, a group affiliated with the nisei veterans, said that Inouye was an honored member of the fraternity of second-generation Japanese-Americans who fought prejudice at home and Nazi forces in Europe during World War II.
"It was a time when they were treated like second-class citizens," she said.
Nevertheless, the men served their country overseas, and the survivors came home to make a difference here. And Inouye exemplified that, Nakata said.
"He was truly a public servant," she said. "His whole life was serving the people of Hawaii."
Playing his ukulele, Willie K ended the celebration of Inouye's life with a chicken-skin rendition of "Danny Boy."
The lyrics to the classic Irish song include:
"Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so."
Inouye's ashes were flown back to Oahu on Saturday afternoon with members of his family. Kahului Airport firefighters saluted the senator with arches of water shot from firetrucks as the Hawaiian Airlines jet carrying his ashes passed by.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.