Hawaii’s Senior Senator, Daniel K. Inouye, died Monday, December 17, at the age of 88 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after suffering respiratory complications.
An emotional Gov. Neil Abecrombie announced Inouye’s death at an afternoon news conference, saying that the senator “embodied the history of Hawaii” since statehood.
Inouye passed away at 12:01 p.m. Hawaii time. The last word he spoke was “aloha,” Abercrombie said.
The senator’s wife Irene and son Ken were at Inouye’s when he died, the governor said.
“This keiki o ka aina, this child of Hawaii, has left us with a legacy I suspect we will never see again, a legacy of honor and service to the people of Hawaii to the people of this nation without parallel.”
Inouye sent a personal communication prepared “in the last couple of days” that that was hand-delivered to the governor today, said Abercrombie.
The message “made clear his love and affection for us all,” said the governor.
Inouye said in the message that he “represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did okay.”
Abercrombie declined to discuss other details of the communication from Inouye, calling it “personal.”
“I believe that its important for everyone to know that the senator’s thoughts and words were lucid and available to us right up until the very last minute,” said Abercrombie.
“It was not his faculties that were impaired at all. Its just that physically he gave everything,” Abercrombie said.
“We have to remember that this was a Medal of Honor winner who received grievous wounds that others would not have survived,” said Abercrombie.
The governor declined to discuss the issue of a replacement for Inouye.
“As to what will take place in regards to the days to come, and what will transpire in regards to the senator’s passing, all in good time,” said Abercrombie.
“It is time now for us to prepare for and to say our goodbyes,” said the governor.
Inouye, who headed the Senate Appropriations Committee, was one of the nation’s most powerful politicians. The nine-term Senator was third in line for the presidency after the vice president and House Speaker as president pro tempore.
Inouye was elected in 1962, just three years after statehood. He served in the 442 Regimental Combat Team during World War II, losing is arm in combat in Italy, and was awarded a the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor.
Only Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, who died in 2010, served in the Senate longer than Inouye.
Proud of the federal dollars Inouye brought home to Hawaii, he made a name nationally for himself when he declared himself “King of Pork” in 2009.
Inouye also became more vocal in recent years about who in his own party he supported for various political offices and took open and often controversial positions during elections in 2006, 2010 and 2012.
Inouye’s first wife, Margaret, passed away in 2006.
President Barack Obama issued a statement:
“Tonight, our country has lost a true American hero with the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye. The second-longest serving Senator in the history of the chamber, Danny represented the people of Hawaii in Congress from the moment they joined the Union. In Washington, he worked to strengthen our military, forge bipartisan consensus, and hold those of us in government accountable to the people we were elected to serve. But it was his incredible bravery during World War II – including one heroic effort that cost him his arm but earned him the Medal of Honor – that made Danny not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Inouye family.”
Inouye is survived by his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, son Daniel Ken Inouye Jr., Ken’s wife Jessica, and granddaughter Maggie and step-daughter Jennifer Hirano. He was preceded in death his first wife, Maggie Awamura.
Inouye’s office said the senator’s family “would like to thank the doctors, nurses and staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for the extraordinary care he received.”
Last rites were performed by Senate Chaplain Dr. Barry Black.