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Former Hawaii Republican Sen. Whitney Anderson dies at 91

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  • COURTESY PHOTO
                                Whitney Anderson

    COURTESY PHOTO

    Whitney Anderson

Former Hawaii Republican state Sen. Whitney Anderson, 91, who was known for his love of people and his support of his constituents, died Saturday of a heart attack.

Anderson died at the multi­generational home in Waimanalo where his parents raised him and where his grandson and adopted son Ikaika Anderson, a former Honolulu City Council member, lives with his children. His wife of 65 years, Hannie Anderson, was at his side.

Whitney Anderson was born in Honolulu and graduated from Roosevelt High School. He was a veteran of the Army, in which he served for four years, including time in the European Theater during the Korean War.

He served in the state Legislature for 20 years — first, in the role of state representative from 1978 to 1992, which included service as House minority leader. He became a senator in 1995 after Gov. Ben Cayetano appointed him to fill state Sen. Mary George’s term. Following a successful subsequent run, he assumed the Senate minority leadership, which he held from 1997 to his retirement in 2000.

Ikaika Anderson told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday that his own love for politics came from “Pop’s love for people. He published his number in the phone book because he felt that people had a right to call him whenever it was convenient. When I ran for office, the first thing he told me was, ‘If you have a landline, it should be in the phone book, and your cellphone should be widely available to the people that you represent — or go do something else.’”

Anderson remembers that in politics his grandfather was most known for fiscal conservatism and for championing rights, particularly housing for Native Hawaiians.

“He was also pro-choice and got a lot of (pushback) from the party for that,” Anderson said. “There were many people that he disagreed with but very few that he disliked. He felt life was too short to hold grudges.”

Former Gov. John Wai­he‘e, who served in the Legislature with Whitney Anderson, remembers him as a personal friend and a committed politician.

“Serving with him was a joy. He wasn’t an ideologue; he was a very practical guy. We really need more people like him,” Waihe‘e said.

Waihe‘e, a Democrat, recalls that when the two served on the same committees, Anderson would joke that he would attend to cancel Waihe‘e’s vote. But he added that Anderson was active in the state Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, and “when it came to Hawaiian issues, he was a rock.”

Former Honolulu City Council member Ann Kobayashi, who served with Anderson in the Legislature, recalls that he made all the politicians better.

“He cared about people, and his votes reflected what was on his mind and his heart,” Kobayashi said. “He made us all question our reasons for voting for something or even introducing a bill. He would ask, ‘How does this help the community?’”

Funeral arrangements are pending, and will be handled by Hawaiian Memorial in Kaneohe.

Anderson was preceded in death by his parents, John Dominis Anderson and Evelyn Anderson of Waimanalo. In addition to wife Hannie and grandson Ikaika, Anderson is survived by daughter Kimberly Puchalski, granddaughters Trisha Hali‘ipua Koa and Kanani Puchalski, brother former state Sen. D.G. “Andy” Anderson, 12 great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter.

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