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Former state Sen. Cal Kawamoto dies at age 73

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 06:07 a.m. HST, Sep 26, 2013

Cal Kawamoto, who served in the state Senate for a decade and was a tireless advocate for Waipahu, died on Sunday after suffering a heart attack earlier this month. He was 73.

Carolyn Kawamoto, Kawamoto's widow, said her husband had a heart attack on Sept. 5 and had been at The Queen's Medical Center until his death on Sunday.

Kawamoto was elected to the Senate in 1994 and eventually became chairman of the Senate Transportation and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. He was defeated in the Democratic primary in 2004 by state Sen. Clarence Nishihara after he was the subject of a campaign-finance investigation.

Kawamoto paid $21,250 to settle claims that he failed to report campaign donations over several years. The state Campaign Spending Commission concluded that the senator had not intentionally violated the law, but cited poor record-keeping.

The commission's investigation was a disappointment to Kawamoto, who in 2004 proposed a bill that would have required the commission's executive director to be approved by the Senate and would have given the Senate the ability to dismiss the executive director by majority vote.

After leaving office, Kawamoto transferred campaign money to the Waipahu Community Adult Day Health Center and Youth Day Care Center.

"He was a tireless and strong advocate for Waipahu," said Nishihara (D, Waipahu-Pearl City), who attended Waipahu United Church of Christ with Kawamoto but added that the two men did not reconcile after the primary.

Nishihara said Kawamoto had been an early advocate for Hawaii's Plantation Village. As a senator, Kawamoto also supported the establishment of the University of Hawaii-West Oahu.

Born April 14, 1940 in Pepeekeo in Hawaii County, Kawamoto was a graduate of Hilo High School and the University of Hawaii. He did post-graduate studies at Northern Michigan University.

Kawamoto spent two decades in the Air Force and was active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1572.

Kawamoto also led the Waipahu Community Foundation.

Jeffrey Higa, the executive director of Hawaii's Plantation Village, said Kawamoto was instrumental in raising private and public money to establish the village and remember the region's sugar plantation history. He said Kawamoto worked with other Waipahu leaders such as Goro Arakawa to preserve not only the physical infrastructure of plantation life but to capture the stories of plantation workers before they died.

"They wanted to preserve that for future generations," Higa said.

Kawamoto is survived by his wife, Carolyn,  a son, Walter, and daughter, Nina. He is also survived by a brother, Paul, and a brother, Roy.

Memorial services are planned for Oct. 17 at Mililani Memorial Park and Mortuary.

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atilter wrote:
personally, i liked him for his no-nonsense, straight-forward advocation of his particular position. friend or foe, one always knew where he was relative to you. for that, i liked him. condolences to his family.
on September 25,2013 | 07:00PM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
Cal was one heck of a guy! He had that military officer's sense of discipline and orderliness that helped him focus on issues clearly. although I didn't always agree with his points of view, it would be scary if anyone totally agreed with everything any particular statesman thought, I was certain about one thing, Cal's positions were only based on what he sincerely thought was good for Hawaii's people. He didn't need the job as State Senator, he had a full military pension and benefits, and also had private ventures, the combination of which made for a comfortable life for him. I'm sure one of Cal's biggest regrets, and no one can say he or she has really lived unless they have a regret or two, is that his dream that the traffic conditions would become safer, with drivers according each other the courtesies of the road, if government operated traffic violation cameras were installed, did not come into being. You can thank or curse, whatever is an individual's preference, Ben Cayetano for that -- he seriously mucked up his van cam project that he spoiled it for any other traffic violation system based on cameras.
on September 25,2013 | 10:40PM
braddah wrote:
He did a lot of good for the school of Waipahu through the Waipahu Community Association and personally.
on September 25,2013 | 07:57PM
Anonymous wrote:
Deepest condolences to his family and friends.
on September 25,2013 | 09:07PM
DABLACK wrote:
The community lost a good man. He did not forget where he came from, not like some other representatives who was in it for the money only.
on September 26,2013 | 07:41AM
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