Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 4, 2002

Thousands say goodbye to Islands' 'voice'

 •  Read tributes and condolences for Patsy Mink
 •  Send your tributes, condolences
 •  A photo retrospective

Gwendolyn Mink, left, John Mink and Gov. Ben Cayetano look upon the flag-draped casket of U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink at the State Capitol atrium. An estimated 4,500 residents had come and gone by 6 p.m. yesterday.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

They came to honor Mink, the tough political dynamo with an infectious laugh who was seen as a friend and advocate for those without power, prestige and proper connections.

Members of womens groups and others formed a “human lei of aloha” around the casket tent at the State Capitol yesterday to honor Rep. Patsy Mink’s efforts on behalf workers, women, racial minorities and the poor.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Many said they were there to express their appreciation for Mink's work to bring equality to the lot of the common person.

Fernando Manago, 69, a retired custodian, hitched a ride to town with a friend in Kalihi, then walked the rest of the way to the Capitol. Manago sat there quietly by himself until the casket line formed.

"I didn't know her," he said. "I never even saw her in person. But, she did a lot for the people of the state, the nation, and the whole world, really. She wasn't afraid to fight. And I don't appreciate people who have said negative things."

Even in passing, Mink's situation has generated controversy. Since her death Saturday at age 74 of viral pneumonia, following a virtual news blackout of details of her condition, many residents have been critical of the fact that as many as two special elections will be held to replace her and asked if that could have been avoided.

But yesterday, that criticism was drowned out by a tidal wave of respect and appreciation.

"I'm so sad because we've lost a voice that wasn't afraid to speak up," said Bettye Jo Harris, who said she wanted to be part of the human lei even though her arthritis made it difficult for her to stand. To compensate, she brought along a wooden chair.

The human lei that formed around the State Capitol eventually moved to the casket tent where the late Rep. Patsy Mink lay in state.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

The throng began arriving well before the Royal Hawaiian Band struck up "Nearer My God to Thee" at 3:15 p.m. to start the ceremonies.

At 3:30 p.m., an eight-man joint service honor guard from Washington, D.C., carried the casket to the center of the Capitol atrium and placed it under a floral-lined tent. The

honor guard, flanked by about 200 honorary pall bearers, was followed by Gov. Ben Cayetano, Mink's husband John and daughter Gwendolyn and a small group of Mink's relatives and staff members.

After viewing the casket, Mink's immediate family moved to a

secure area on the 'ewa/mauka side of the atrium, where they spent the afternoon greeting close friends and well-wishers. Out of respect, journalists were asked not to question Mink's family members.

Shortly after 4 p.m. the general public was allowed to begin passing by the casket. Throughout the afternoon the procession continued past the closed, flag-draped coffin beside which rested a large portrait of Mink.

Patsy Mink’s casket lay in state under a tent at the State Capitol yesterday. An eight-man joint service honor guard from Washington, D.C., carried the casket to the center of the Capitol atrium, where thousands came to pay their respects.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

A pair of Mink's relatives along with two members of the Royal Guard remained with the casket throughout the afternoon and early evening. Sgt. Darryl Oku of the state Department of Public Safety, which took over the casket vigil after 9 p.m., estimated that some 4,500 visitors had come and gone by 6 p.m.

Throughout the evening, Hawaiian entertainers serenaded the gathering as a steady flow of people went to the Capitol to pay their respects to Mink and her family. The smell of flowers filled the Capitol atrium as dozens of wreaths lined the walls and the tent that covered Mink's casket.

Many visitors left flowers and lei along her casket as two Hawai'i National Guardsmen stood by. Among the mourners were former Hawai'i Chief Justice William Richardson and Charles Toguchi, a former state senator and chief of staff to Gov. Ben Cayetano.

"We lost of one of Hawai'i's great women," said Richard Kaya, 70, who walked with a cane and took a bus from Mo'ili'ili to attend the service. "She was a typical Maui girl. She thought more about the lower individual than the upper class."

Even Mink's detractors have recognized her as a woman of strong conviction, who once explained her dogged determination by saying, "Our basic belief is that legislation which most directly help the common man lead a better life, today, tomorrow and in his twilight years is the greatest responsibility of our government."

The human lei was the result of a brainstorming session by leaders from a number of local women's groups who said they wanted to honor Mink for her efforts on behalf of workers, women, racial minorities and the poor.

Mink’s casket is draped with an American flag under a floral-lined tent at the State Capitol.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It was a collective idea," said Allicyn Hikida Tasaka, a friend and colleague of Mink's. "I think I'd give June Shimokawa, the former executive director of the YWCA, credit for coming up with the idea."

The human lei began small on the makai side of the Capitol, and swiftly took on a life of its own. An estimated 900 people joined hands and connected flowers to 400 yards of green ribbon. Mostly female, the human lei highlight came when the entire group moved quietly into the atrium, surrounded the casket tent and then broke into a moving and spontaneous medley of Hawaiian songs that included "The Queen's Prayer," "Aloha 'Oe" and "Hawai'i Aloha."

Former state Rep. Annelle Amaral, an organizer of the human lei, was one of many who felt it was a fitting tribute to the first minority woman to serve in Congress.

"I promise you there's a huge void in political leadership now that she's gone," Amaral said. "The professions — medicine and law — were once closed to women. Gifted doctors and lawyers you see today would be at home caring for babies instead. There's dignity in that, but there's dignity in our talents as well. Patsy Mink made that possible."

Advertiser staff writer Curtis Lum contributed to this report.

• • •

Service today

A memorial service for the late Rep. Patsy Mink will begin at 10 a.m. today in the Capitol atrium. Government and community leaders will speak, including Gov. Ben Cayetano, Hawai'i's congressional delegation and House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt.

Mink's casket will remain at the Capitol for public viewing until 1:30 p.m. There will be a private burial later today at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

An estimated 900 people participated in the “human lei of aloha” around the State Capitol yesterday. Participants later filed past Patsy Mink’s casket.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mourners continue to visit the Capitol late into the evening.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser