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Irene Hirano Inouye, widow of Sen. Daniel Inouye and leader in U.S.-Japan community, dies at 71

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / FEB. 17, 2008
                                U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and his then-fiance Irene Hirano met with the crowd assembled to hear Chelsea Clinton speak at a democratic rally for Hillary Clinton at Ryan’s Grill at Ward Center in 2008.

    STAR-ADVERTISER / FEB. 17, 2008

    U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and his then-fiance Irene Hirano met with the crowd assembled to hear Chelsea Clinton speak at a democratic rally for Hillary Clinton at Ryan’s Grill at Ward Center in 2008.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / FEB. 17, 2008
                                U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and his then-fiance Irene Hirano met with the crowd assembled to hear Chelsea Clinton speak at a democratic rally for Hillary Clinton at Ryan’s Grill at Ward Center in 2008.

    STAR-ADVERTISER / FEB. 17, 2008

    U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and his then-fiance Irene Hirano met with the crowd assembled to hear Chelsea Clinton speak at a democratic rally for Hillary Clinton at Ryan’s Grill at Ward Center in 2008.

  • COURTESY PHOTO / May 24, 2008
                                U.S. Sen.Daniel K. Inouye married Irene Hirano in a small, private ceremony at All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, California on May 24, 2008.

    COURTESY PHOTO / May 24, 2008

    U.S. Sen.Daniel K. Inouye married Irene Hirano in a small, private ceremony at All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, California on May 24, 2008.

  • DENNIS ODA / DEC. 23, 2012
                                Then-President Barack Obama consoles Irene Hirano Inouye after she was presented the American flag as Michelle Obama looks on at the senator’s memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl in 2012.

    DENNIS ODA / DEC. 23, 2012

    Then-President Barack Obama consoles Irene Hirano Inouye after she was presented the American flag as Michelle Obama looks on at the senator’s memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl in 2012.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / FEB. 17, 2008
                                Irene Hirano is seen here at a Democratic rally for Hillary Clinton at Ryan’s Grill at Ward Center in 2008.

    STAR-ADVERTISER / FEB. 17, 2008

    Irene Hirano is seen here at a Democratic rally for Hillary Clinton at Ryan’s Grill at Ward Center in 2008.

Irene Hirano Inouye, the widow of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, died Tuesday after an extended illness, according to the U.S.-Japan Council.

Hirano Inouye, born in 1948, was the president of the educational organization, founded in 2008, and was also president and founding CEO of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles for 20 years.

Inouye and the longtime senator were wed in 2008. He died on Dec. 17, 2012.

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U.S.-Japan Council board Chairwoman Phyllis Campbell wrote in a letter the group’s members, “I know we are all devastated by this news. Irene was a singular figure in U.S.-Japan relations, respected by leaders on both sides of the Pacific as she carried out the mission of USJC. Since the founding of the Council, she infused the organization with her wisdom and entrepreneurial spirit, kept her pulse on every aspect of USJC while keeping her eye on the strategic vision, and managed to approach every challenge with fearlessness and determination.”

Hirano Inouye had announced in January that she planned to retire from her post later this year, the council said.

She also had served as chairwoman and trustee of the Ford and Kresge foundations, and chairwoman of the Smithsonian Institution Asian Pacific American Center, among many other positions.

Hirano Inouye is survived by her mother, Jean Yasutake; daughter, Jennifer Hirano; sisters Linda (Mike) Hayashi and Patricia Yasutake; brother Steven (Marla) Yasutake; stepson, Kenny (Jessica) Inouye; and granddaughter, Maggie Inouye.

The U.S.-Japan Council said plans for a memorial service will be made after the current global COVID-19 crisis has ended.

Correction: This story has been updated with a more complete list of survivors.

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