HONOLULU — Rep. Mark Takai, a Democrat representing the City and County of Honolulu, has died at the age of 49.
The first-term congressman had been battling pancreatic cancer for nine months and had announced that he would not seek re-election due to his health issues.
His office released the following statement on Wednesday: “Today, Congressman Mark Takai passed away at home, surrounded by family. Takai represented Hawaii’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 114th Congress and spent 20 years serving in the Hawaii State House of Representatives.
“In Congress, Takai served as the ranking member of the Committee on Small Business’s Subcommittee on Contracting and the Workforce in addition to being a member of the House Committee on Armed Services.
“The Takai family thanks the people of Hawaii for their support during this difficult time. Information regarding a service will be available at a later time. The Takai family politely asks for the continued respect of their family’s privacy.”
Takai is being praised by his fellow elected officials.
President Barack Obama: “Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Rep. Mark Takai today. Mark was always a fighter. It’s the spirit he brought to more than two decades of public service on behalf of the people of Hawaii.
“He stood up for America’s most vulnerable. He championed our troops and veterans, and proudly wore our nation’s uniform. And his relentless push for cancer research inspired countless Americans fighting the same battle as him.
“Simply put, our country is better off because of Mark’s contributions. He leaves a legacy of courage, of service, and of hope. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark’s wife, Sami, their two children, and his many friends and family.”
Hawaii Gov. David Ige: “Today, the people of Hawaii mourn the passing of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai. He proudly served his country in uniform, including 17 years with the Hawaii Army National Guard. Mark humbly and effectively served the people of his state House and congressional districts. In the often tumultuous world of politics, he has been a shining example of what it means to be a public servant.
“While we will deeply feel the loss of Mark Takai in the public arena, we cannot forget that he was a family man first. His wife, children and extended family will miss him every moment from this day on. Dawn and I extend our deepest sympathies to Sami, Matthew and Kaila. Your husband and father was a man of principle and goodwill. Thank you for sharing him with the citizens of Hawaii.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “Mark Takai was a devoted public servant who was committed to bettering our state and country in public office for more than two decades. He also gave back to his community as a celebrated champion collegiate swimmer, a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and a devoted family man.
“I affectionately called Mark my younger brother. We shared so many of the same values and supported each other during challenging times. Mark’s passing is a tremendous loss for all of us who loved him, and for the state of Hawaii. But he said it best — ‘as often happens, we find ourselves on a different journey than we had planned.’
“While we find that our journey is not as bright without Mark, we will continue his work to make Hawaii a better place.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “I’m deeply saddened today as we mourn the passing of my friend, colleague, and fellow soldier, Congressman Mark Takai. I’m grateful to have known and worked with Mark for over a decade. With a servant’s heart, full of aloha, he dedicated his life to serving the people of Hawaii and our nation, in the Hawaii State Legislature, in the Hawaii Army National Guard, and in Congress.
“I had the good fortune of serving with Mark in all three of these capacities, and saw first-hand that no matter where he was, he always kept his service to Hawaii’s people at the forefront of his actions. Mark’s smiling face and ready laugh will truly be missed, but the impact that he made through his life of service to the people of Hawaii will always be remembered.”
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside): “Today, the world lost a kind man, this Congress lost a great leader, and many of us lost a dear friend. I am heartbroken by the passing of Congressman Mark Takai. Mark will always be remembered for his incredible spirit, which he bravely maintained throughout his illness, and the lifetime he spent working to strengthen his community. I feel lucky to have called him a friend and I will miss him very much.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena): “I’m heartbroken by the loss of my colleague and friend Mark Takai. We served together on the Small Business Committee and in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and I was always struck by his spirit. He was a patriot and veteran who cared so much about bettering our country and the lives of others. I already miss my friend.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles): “Heartbroken. No other way to say it right now. Mark was so positive and hopeful — that’s what he would show us everyday, even under the hardest of circumstances. To Congressman Takai’s family, Sami, his wife, and Matthew and Kaila, his children, and all who loved him, my deepest sympathies. We have all lost a wonderful friend, a determined leader and a believer in the dream of America.”
Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana): “Mark was truly a gentle and kind man: not one bad word ever came out of his mouth. Mark’s kindness, generosity of spirit, and principled conduct inspired those around him to be better people. Mark always put Hawaii and its people first, serving in the Hawaii House of Representatives, the Hawaii National Guard, and in Congress. Dedicating his life to public service, Mark changed many lives for the better and he will be deeply missed.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose): “I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend Rep. Mark Takai. It has been an honor to work with him, as a fellow Nikkei. He came to Washington with great excitement and expectations which motivated his desire to dedicate himself to meaningful service as he had in the Hawaii State House of Representatives and the National Guard. The great state of Hawaii has lost someone who truly understood the spirit of Aloha.
“I send my deepest condolences and warmest aloha to his wife Sami, his children Matthew and Kaila and his parents Erik and Naomi. I will truly miss him because he showed us the genuine meaning of ohana — family — demonstrated by those who gathered around him. We have lost one of our own family members today. Aloha, Mark. Thank you for your warmth and your beautiful spirit.”
Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam): “I am deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend, Congressman Mark Takai of Hawaii. Mark was a fierce advocate for the people of Hawaii and championed issues important to the AAPI community. He briefly lived in Guam prior to serving in Congress, which helped inform his perspectives on the challenges affecting the territories.
“Further, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I worked with him closely on several issues, and I appreciated his insights and views, especially his experiences as a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard. I will miss him, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of Hawaii during this difficult time.”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “I am heartbroken over the death of Congressman Mark Takai. He was a proud veteran who served our country, and an exceptional and devoted public servant who fought tirelessly for the state of Hawaii. He was a great human being and it was a tremendous honor to work with him. I will always be grateful for his friendship and guidance.
“He loved his wife and kids, and was so happy every time they came to be with him in Washington. He would always tell me how thrilled he was that they were coming. I send my deepest condolences and prayers to Mark’s family, friends and constituents during this very difficult time. His service and contributions in Congress will never be forgotten. RIP.”