KAHULUI Maui bid aloha to U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye on Saturday.
Master of ceremonies Tony Takitani said that the gathering of family, friends and admirers at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater was a celebration of life for Inouye.
And, "what an incredible life it was," he said.
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, statesman and 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."
For more on this story, read the Sunday edition of The Maui News.