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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:38 a.m., Friday, October 4, 2002

1,000 gather to mourn Patsy Mink

• Previous story: Thousands say goodbye to Islands' 'voice'

HSTA President Karen Ginoza and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye stand before the flag-draped casket of U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink at the State Capitol during this morning's public service for the late congresswoman. U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., of Wisconsin, stands in the back. U.S. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, far left, also addressed the estimated 1,000 people who attended.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

About 1,000 mourners filled the flower and lei-adorned State Capitol rotunda today to remember U.S. Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink as a tireless fighter for women, minorities and anyone else who found strength from the force of Mink's powerful voice.

Hawai'i's most powerful politicians, a delegation from Congress and everyday people honored Mink, who served Hawai'i in the Territorial House and Senate, Honolulu City Council, as assistant secretary of state and a combined 24 years in the House.

But speaker after speaker today focused less on her political career and more on Mink's personal drive and unwavering integrity.

They spoke of her passion to help the underprivileged in Hawai'i as well as unknown women across America by authorizing the Title IX legislation that ensures equality for women's athletics. In her death, the legislation has been renamed "The Patsy Mink Act," House minority leader Richard Gephardt told those gathered this morning.

"This strong-willed woman changed the face of America forever" with her Title IX legislation, Gephardt said.

"She cared about the poor and she cared about the discriminated against first," Gephardt said. "...And she was an unabashed, unapologetically proud liberal Democrat."

A portrait of Congresswoman Patsy Mink is carried through the Hawai'i State Capitol rotunda by an honor guard.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mink, 74, died Saturday of viral pneumonia brought on by a bout of chicken pox. People around Hawai'i have expressed frustration over the lack of news about Mink's illness. And others have asked whether as many as two, $2 million special elections to replace Mink could have been avoided had Democratic Party officials been more forthcoming.

But there was no mention of that this morning.

Instead, there were tears, chants, Hawaiian music, singing by entertainer Danny Kaleikini and more than an hour of remembrances by officials from Gov. Ben Cayetano, U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, teachers, members of Congress, the head of the teachers union and Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano, the assistant athletic director and senior women's administrator at the University of Hawai'i, who called herself a living, breathing example of Mink's work with Title IX.

The high level of political leadership generated intense levels of security that included sheriff's deputies wearing flak vests.

As mourners filed into the rotunda, Mink's closed casket stood under a white tent with dozens of people passing by and dropping off lei and bouquets of flowers.

The casket was draped in a U.S. flag draped and flanked by rotating pairs of military personnel and women from various Hawaiian groups.

A portrait of Mink stood above her casket, surrounded by nearly two dozen wreaths from the National Education Association, Honolulu City Council, Consul General of Korea, U.S. House of Representatives, Akaka and Inouye, Brigham Young University-Hawai'i, family members, the state House and state Senate, the Democratic Party and Mink's colleague in the House, Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

Kamaki Kanahele, kahu for the State Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, stood in line with a maile lei in hand.

"Patsy Mink was one of those kinds of ladies that kept her word and kept her promise," Kanahele said. "Many politicians give lip service to Hawaiians. But Patsy Mink said we have her blessing and kokua. As a Native Hawaiian, I can say that her word has always been good."

As the service began, Mink's casket was moved to the diamondhead side of the rotunda where her husband of 51 years, John, and daughter, Gwendolyn, heard speaker after speaker praise Mink's courage, dignity and drive.

"Her shield was her integrity," said U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. "Her weapons her word."

"She could not tolerate abused and abandoned children and abused and abandoned wives," Inouye said. "She could not tolerate discrimination and hatred and prejudice."

Cayetano remembered Mink as a person with "integrity beyond reproach."

Mink, Cayetano said, became a lawyer at a time when there were few women in law and was elected to politics "when politics was supposed to be a man's game."

"Patsy believed there is no nobler calling than public service," Cayetano said. "Patsy fought to make things better, even if it was a little better, for the people of Hawai'i."

If the people of Hawai'i could speak with one voice today, Cayetano said, they would say: "Thank you Patsy, thank you for a job well done."

Gephardt called Mink's "the life of an amazing woman."

In 1948 Mink applied to 12 medical schools and was turned away by each one.

"She was turned down because she was a woman," Gephardt said. Mink then enrolled at the University of Chicago law school only to be turned down for a job at later at a Honolulu law firm.

"She didn't get consumed by hatred," Gephardt said. "She simply did something about it. She had the patience and the perseverance to see it through."

Gephardt ran down a list of firsts for Mink: First Asian American woman admitted to the Hawai'i bar; first Asian American woman elected to the Legislature; first woman of color in 1964 to win national office.

"She was a pioneer," Gephardt said. "She blazed trails. She made it possible for others to follow in her wake."

Karen Ginoza, president of the Hawai'i State Teachers Association, called Mink "a champion, a prize fighter who never gave up on a good cause."

But House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi of California turned her thoughts to the people of Hawai'i.

"Thank you, Hawai'i," Pelosi said, "for sending such a remarkable spirit to Congress."