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Health Department workers, elected officials pay tribute to Fuddy

The state health director was the lone fatality in a plane crash off Molokai

By Gregg K. Kakesako & Timothy Hurley

LAST UPDATED: 3:02 p.m. HST, Dec 12, 2013

Hundreds of state Department of Health employees gathered outside the department's headquarters this afternoon to say farewell to the agency's director, Loretta Fuddy, who died in a small plane crash off Molokai Wednesday.

Somber family members met with tearful employees and Gov. Neil Abercrombie spoke emotionally, describing Fuddy, 65, as "selfless, without pretense and completely and totally dedicated" to her work.

"Our hearts are broken but we'll carry on in the spirit of Loretta Fuddy. Imua Loretta," he said.

Elected officials from Washington to Wailuku praised Fuddy, who was born in Kaimuki and graduated from Sacred Hearts Academy, and was mourned as a passionate public servant.

Fuddy served in the health field for 30 years and was named deputy health director in 2002. She held degrees in social work and public health from the University of Hawaii and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, in a written statement, added: "Loretta dedicated her life to improving the well-being and health of Hawaii's people, and we are grateful for her decades of selfless service to others. She was a fierce advocate for our keiki and kupuna, working for more than 37 years to create a safe and healthy environment for our residents."

Tom Matsuda, interim executive director of Hawaii's health insurance exchange, said in a statement, "I cannot even begin to convey what a terrible loss this is for Hawaii."

Fuddy, 65, was on the board of the exchange.

"I worked closely with Director Fuddy on the Affordable Care Act and came to know and respect her as a passionate advocate for public health and a warm, caring human being," Matsuda said.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, a former lieutenant governor under Abercrombie, said Fuddy was capable and caring. His office said Fuddy spent 30 years working in health and human services and had been health director since March 2011.

"Loretta Fuddy was one of the finest, most capable, and most caring public servants I have ever known," he said. "This is a sad day for Hawaii."

Most recently, Fuddy led the department as it transitioned its marriage license system to allow gay couples to wed under a new law that took effect this month.

Paul Jarris, executive director of Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, referred to Fuddy by her nickname "Deliana" in a statement mourning her loss.

"From day one of her tenure as a state health official when preparing for a tsunami to hit Hawaii in 2011 until yesterday, celebrating Hawaii's ranking as the healthiest state, Deliana was an excellent health official and true public health hero serving not only the citizens of Hawaii, but all citizens across this nation," he said.

"She was an unwavering advocate for the health of children and youth and a champion for achieving the highest quality of health for all people. She was a compassionate, caring, and humble human being, and a great friend and colleague to so many of us in the public health community. She will be greatly missed."

Terry Cline, president of ASTHO and Oklahoma commissioner of health, said, "Deliana was equal parts kindness and determination, and she made ASTHO and every place she worked and touched a better place."

U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono noted, "Loretta was a dedicated public servant who spent most of her life working to improve public health on behalf of Hawaii's families. ... She touched so many lives and will be missed."

"We are extremely saddened to hear the news," said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa in a statement confirming her death. "Loretta's life was dedicated to improving public health in the community and the entire state suffers from this loss."


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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