Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, October 5, 2002

'Thank you Patsy ... for a job well done'

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

By Mike Gordon and Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writers

With heads bowed and hearts heavy, some of the nation's most powerful leaders gathered yesterday to honor the late U.S. Rep. Patsy T. Mink, a woman they repeatedly and lovingly called a dedicated public servant.

Gov. Ben Cayetano spoke at the funeral service for the late Patsy Mink. He remembered her as a person with "integrity beyond reproach."

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

At a funeral that drew nearly 1,000 people to the atrium of the State Capitol, Mink's lengthy political career drew praise of the highest order from 17 speakers.

She was a champion of the underprivileged who fought for the rights of women, a tireless fighter never to be underestimated.

She was a trailblazer who broke down barriers of social injustice for minorities.

And she was a woman who turned personal discrimination based on her race and gender into federal legislation that opened doors, most notably for female athletes who gained equality in 1972 through Title IX legislation. This week Congress moved to re-name it "The Patsy Mink Act."

"If many Americans today do not remember the discrimination in Patsy Mink's life, it is because Patsy Mink dedicated her life to removing them," said Norman Mineta, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"Patsy's loss is one that can never be replaced," continued Mineta, a former colleague of Mink's in the House. "But her legacy will be that she left the United States a better place than when she found it and all of us will forever be in her debt."

”We are not ready for a world without Patsy Mink. We still have work to do to protect civil liberties and the rights of people. Patsy brought women a long way toward true equality. But who will make sure we don’t slide back?”

— U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey

”Patsy took great pride in representing Hawai‘i. In all that she did in Congress, she brought honor and dignity to this state.”

— U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi,
House minority whip

”Her passing leaves a void in our community. Today we grieve the loss of our friend, ally and leader.”

— Karen Ginoza,
President of the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association

”In the history of our state and nation, Patsy was one of the giants who altered the American political landscape. Her efforts broke down barriers and opened doors for opportunities for people. … A great spirit has come and gone before us. Patsy’s courage will be sorely missed.”

— U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka

”To all of her friends and all of her colleagues and to all the people of Hawai‘i: Thank you for sharing her with us.”

— U.S. Rep. George Miller

”If I may paraphrase my cousin: We must fight, fight, fight for what we believe in so we can all win.”

— Calin Tamura,
Mink’s cousin

”She helped propel one of the great revolutions of our society, the women’s movement, into the mainstream of American life.”

— U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt,
House minority leader

Mink, 74, died Sept. 28 of viral pneumonia brought on by a bout of chickenpox. People around Hawai'i had 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 at her funeral service.

This was about her life, not her death.

The atrium was adorned with lei and flowers and surrounded by poker-faced sheriff's deputies, some in flak vests.

Mink's casket, draped with a U.S. flag, lay in state beneath a white tent as a steady stream of mourners filed by to pay their final respects.

Mineta read a letter of condolences from President Bush to Mink's family.

"We know what a difficult time this is for you and we extend our heartfelt sympathy," Bush said. "Patsy was a dedicated public servant who represented Hawai'i and our country with honor and dignity. Our nation is grateful for her record of service."

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," he 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."

"We will miss her intellect, understanding of the Constitution and ability to fight against the odds," said attorney Elizabeth Jubin Fujiwara. "When she spoke, you knew it was from the heart."

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

The service brought together Hawai'i's most powerful politicians, a delegation from Congress and everyday people. They sat in reserved seats and on planter boxes. They hung over the railings of the Capitol's upper levels and stood five-deep on the rotunda floor.

Some wore silk ties. Some wore rubber slippers.

For many, Mink had been their elected representative for decades. She had served Hawai'i as a Democrat in the Territorial House and Senate, Honolulu City Council, as assistant secretary of state and a combined 24 years in the House.

"She was an American patriot," said U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, (D-Hawai'i). "She was an authentic American hero. Her weapons were her words of wisdom, her words of compassion."

Gov. Ben Cayetano said the judgment of history will be kind to Mink. He remembered her as a person with "integrity beyond reproach."

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

House minority leader Richard Gephardt called Mink "a pioneer in every sense of the word."

He told the mourners how, in 1948, Mink applied to 12 medical schools and was turned down by each one. She was turned down because she was a woman, he said.

When she became a lawyer instead, she was turned down for a job at a Honolulu law firm, again because of her gender.

"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.

Throughout the service, speaker after speaker returned to Mink's greatest achievement: the passage of Title IX.

"Patsy left a powerful legacy," said U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.). "Title IX, which opened locker room doors for women, simply would not have happened without Patsy's leadership. With a twinkle in her eye and a smile, Patsy worked her magic and changed our country."

But Pelosi also turned her thoughts to the people of Hawai'i.

"Thank you," she said, "for sending such a remarkable spirit to Congress."

One of the most moving moments came when Marilyn Moniz-Kahoohanohano, the assistant athletic director and senior women's administrator at the University of Hawai'i, stood to address the mourners.

She called herself a living, breathing example of Mink's work with Title IX and thanked Mink, whom she called "the guardian angel" of the Wahine athletic program.

She spoke of Mink's courageous dreams and the dreams she gave to little girls.

"You have left our world a better place," Moniz-Kahoohanohano said. "And we are comforted to know you will remain our guardian angel."

Mink, whose husband is a veteran, was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl in a private ceremony. About 120 relatives and close friends attended, most of them wearing small orange blossoms, one of Mink's favorite colors.

A team from the 3rd U.S. Infantry ceremonial unit out of Washington, D.C., carried Mink's flag-draped casket to an open-air gazebo. The team fired three rifle volleys followed by a solo bugler playing taps.

Advertiser staff writer James Gonser contributed to this report.