Hawaii News Late-blooming politician served in the Legislature By B.J. Reyes Aug. 21, 2012 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. After dutifully supporting her husband’s military career, Mary-Jane McMurdo decided later in life that she wanted to give politics a try. So in 1982, at age 58, she gave it a shot and won a seat on the McCully-Moiliili Neighborhood Board. From there it was onto the state Senate and finally a turn in the state House. McMurdo, who led the fight to save moderate-income housing in the Date Street-Laau Street area and also was a champion of the movement to save Sandy Beach, died Saturday. She was 88. “She once told me that the reason she decided to run for office was because she did not like how the Legislature treated ordinary people like her who came to testify on different issues,” said her daughter-in-law Theresia McMurdo. “She definitely worked toward giving more power to the people.” McMurdo, who survived four major cancer operations, including a double mastectomy, died of pneumonia at Kahala Nui retirement community, her daughter-in-law said. McMurdo was first elected to the state Senate in 1984 and served until 1992 before later returning to the Capitol to serve one term in the House from 1994 to 1996. She represented Waikiki. She was among a small group of women in the Legislature at the time and championed rights for women, including mandated insurance coverage for mammograms and the right of a wife to sign a contract without first obtaining her husband’s written approval, her daughter-in-law said. “She was one of those who was really honest, always said what she thought and really tried to get things done,” said City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who served with McMurdo in the Senate. “She hated any kind of bureaucracy or having to fuss with stuff that is not necessary. She just wanted to get things done.” Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who also served with McMurdo in the Legislature, called her a “dear friend who exemplified what it meant to be a public servant.” “First and foremost a community leader, Mary-Jane became a powerful force in the state Senate who put Waikiki at the center of legislation in the early ’80s,” Abercrombie said in a statement. “She is among the legacy of great women who participated in the Hawaii state Legislature during a time that included Pat Saiki, Kinau Kamalii, Mary George and Lehua Fernandes Salling.” McMurdo is credited for the campaign leading to a 1982 amendment to the Honolulu City Charter that gave people the right to pass ordinances by initiative. Initiatives she helped get on the ballot included an effort to save moderate-income housing in the Date-Laau community that was to be leveled by high-rise developers, and an initiative to preserve Fort DeRussy as open space. She also was an early backer of efforts to preserve the Waikiki Natatorium. “She was really, from our point of view, a champion of public access at the Legislature,” said Janet Mason, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii. Prior to running for office, McMurdo supported the military career of her husband, Col. Strathmore Keith “Mick” McMurdo, and raised their four children. Mary-Jane McMurdo told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin upon her husband’s death in 2006, “I supported his Army career, and he had no ego problem in supporting my choice late in life to pursue a career in politics.” McMurdo is survived by daughter Dahlis Day, sons Keith and Michael, daughters-in-law Kerrianne and Theresia, and four grandchildren. Memorial services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Sept. 1 at the Hawaii Yacht Club, followed by the scattering of ashes at sea. Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society. Previous Story Newswatch Next Story Labor leader loved 'music and things Hawaiian'