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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Kaua'i businessman George Kawakami dead at 78

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

George Kawakami, 78, a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran, businessman and representative on Kaua'i of Sen. Daniel Inouye, died over the weekend while visiting family on the Mainland.

He was a member of the clan that owns the island's Big Save supermarket chain and served on the Big Save board. He was the eldest son of Big Save founder H.S. Kawakami.

Until George Kawakami's retirement, he ran Kawakami Store, the family furniture store on Rice Street in Lihu'e.

Funeral arrangements were pending yesterday.

A lifelong friendship with Inouye made Kawakami a powerful figure, but he was known as a quiet force with a ready smile.

"We have worked closely on several projects and, always, Kaua'i's interests were of utmost importance," said Mayor Maryanne Kusaka. "Those of us who know George will remember him fondly as an avid golfer, a 'rascal' and fun-loving friend, and an astute businessman."

When proponents of economic development or other projects on the island sought an ear in Washington, Kawakami — since he had the ear of the state's senior senator — was often a first stop.

"Because of his ability to listen to the people, this island is forever better off," said Gary Baldwin, director of the Kaua'i Economic Development Board, who described Kawakami as a second father to him.

Sen. Inouye, who served with Kawakami in the Army during World War II, described him as a friend whose family connection spanned generations.

"George has been my friend and my brother since we were in grammar school. Our fathers were classmates and our families were very close," Inouye said. "Returning to Kaua'i will be different. George will not be there to meet me. I will miss him."