POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 23, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 12:47 p.m. HST, Dec 23, 2012
Several thousand people from across the state gathered Saturday at the state Capitol to say farewell to Daniel K. Inouye, a man whom for many in attendance had been their U.S. senator from the time they were born.
Inouye's flag-draped casket sat in the center of the Capitol courtyard as his family, three governors, other local dignitaries and then ordinary folks streamed past.
A procession led by Hawaiian chanters and the blowing of a conch shell heralded Inouye's casket as it was carried by a military honor guard escorted by state Sheriff Shawn Tsuha into the Capitol courtyard at 5 p.m.
Inouye, 88, died Monday of a respiratory illness. The second-longest-serving senator in U.S. history, he was Hawaii's first U.S. representative.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie recounted some of the highlights of Inouye's storied life, from his childhood days in Honolulu to his heroics in World War II and his exploits in the House and then the Senate.
"Well done, O good and faithful servant," Abercrombie said. "Rest easy now. You are home with us in paradise."
Most of those assembled wore black.
There was a smattering of men in white shirts and blue-and-red 442nd Regimental Combat Team caps. Taking out several machine gun nests to save his comrades, Inouye lost his right arm in Italy and was awarded a Medal of Honor for his heroics.
George Harada, 89, was with Inouye on the day of that battle and was part of the heavy artillery crew that provided cover for him. Harada, who graduated from McKinley High School the year before Inouye, said he remembers little from that day other than that "it took us all night to climb that damn mountain."
Now a resident of Molokai, Harada said he felt it important to fly over and say a final farewell to his old friend.
Kaheka resident Tom Ida, 81, wore his brother's shirt and pin to the service. Fred Ida, who served with Inouye in the 442nd, died two years ago. Inouye helped send an honor guard to the service for Fred Ida, who won both a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions.
Tom Ida choked up when he remembered spending a day when he was a teenager at Lanikai Beach with his brother and Inouye shortly after they had returned from the war.
"The one thing he told me was, ‘You're lucky to be living in this paradise.'"
As the service began, the Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii played an upbeat rendition of "Danny Boy," one of the senator's favorite songs.
House Speaker Calvin Say said that Inouye taught him to always be humble, and that "trust was the greatest currency in the world."
Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said Inouye's life teaches us to "do what's right, don't forget your roots, and to speak for those who don't have a voice."
He said a friend recounted to him how the senator, dressed in a white suit, was having dinner one night in a Waikiki restaurant when her husband, a waiter, spilled red wine on it.
Inouye, the story went, told the man, "Don't worry, it's OK,'" Recktenwald said. "I'm sure if the senator were here tonight, he would tell us the same thing. ‘Don't worry, it's OK.'"
Kaimuki resident Denis Salle, 45, brought sons Milan, 10, and Etienne, 8, to view the ceremony.
"I wanted my kids to see Sen. Inouye's last appearance," Salle said. "He was a figure that stood for a lot of values."
Salle said the length of his service, that he was Capitol Hill's first Japanese-American congressman and that "he had extremely good command of his language" as an orator were some of the first things he could think of when it came to what made Inouye special.
The second-longest-serving senator in U.S. history, he was president pro tempore at the time of his death, making him third in line to the presidency.
Senate President Shan Tsutsui said "if anyone deserves some quiet time, some rest," it is Inouye. The senator was a shining example for everyone, Tsutsui said, "for who could have carried a greater burden than he, and who could have endured more trials and tribulations than he? And yet he never complained. He still persevered."
The hourlong service ended with the playing of "Aloha ‘Oe." As Inouye's wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, was escorted out of the Capitol, more than 1,000 people began to form a line that in no time stretched to South Beretania Street, where flags flew at half-staff in Inouye's honor.
The Royal Order of Kamehameha performed a "laying of cape" ceremony for Inouye, whom they had made an honorary member for the work he had done on behalf of Native Hawaiians.
Papakolea resident Raymond Paopao, 29, and wife Erica Aki, 30, brought daughter Kamana‘o, 3, and son Uriah, 2, to Saturday night's service to pay tribute to the man who was instrumental in finding support for Hilo-based Aha Punana Leo. Kamana‘o attends Punana Leo's Hawaiian immersion preschool in Kalihi.
Due largely to Inouye's efforts, Aki said, the school is able to help perpetuate the Hawaiian language. "Kamana‘o will be able to learn to speak the language," she said, something she herself did not have the opportunity to do.
Waipahu resident Reginald Dayoan, 66, stood out because he wore a black T-shirt with "DAN" in large, yellow letters. Dayoan said he supported Inouye's campaigns for more than a decade because of his support for Filipino-Americans and immigrants in general.
Instead of flowers, Inouye's family requested contributions to the Daniel K. Inouye Fund in care of the Hawaii Community Foundation.
Visitors began signing condolence books at the Governor's Office on Friday, with additional books available during Saturday's service.
Today, final public services for Inouye are being held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Punchbowl. President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend, White House officials said Saturday.
Colleagues and aides lined the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday to bid aloha to Inouye during a rare ceremony to demonstrate the respect he earned over decades. On Friday, Obama, former President Bill Clinton and other dignitaries remembered Inouye during a service at the National Cathedral in Washington.