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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 24, 2006

Maggie Inouye, 'an ideal woman'

 •  Obituaries

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Staff Writer

Margaret "Maggie" Awamura Inouye

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Several thousand mourners lined up under bright skies yesterday at Harris United Methodist Church to say goodbye to a woman eulogized as "an ideal woman" and one who was the quiet strength behind her husband, Hawai'i's powerful senior U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.

Margaret "Maggie" Awamura Inouye, 81, died of complications from colon cancer March 13 at Walter Reed Memorial Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Her ashes will be inurned in a private family service later at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

As her son, Daniel K. "Kenny" Inouye Jr., thanked the crowd for the outpouring of kindness to his family, he also sent everyone off with a homework assignment something his mother would have done, he said.

"I ask all of you spend an extra few minutes with those you love," he said. "Give them a few more hugs and talk story with them for a little while. And talk about things you maybe haven't talked about for a while. Because I can guarantee you, when they're not around, you're going to wish you had those extra few minutes."

The service brought together Hawai'i's Democrat establishment and the thousands who have been the bedrock of the Democratic Party in Hawai'i for decades, as well as many of the state's most influential leaders from every sector.

Sen. Inouye did not speak during the service but greeted all who came to offer condolences, thanking each individually for all they had done for his family. Four of Maggie's five sisters, three of whom live on the Mainland, stood with the senator and his son and daughter-in-law, Jessica Inouye, to greet the long line of mourners.

The church was overflowing with brilliantly colored floral tributes, including several that included pink anthuriums that had been named after Margaret Inouye by University of Hawai'i botanist Haruyuki Kamemoto, who had developed them.

A table at the front of the church where Dan and Maggie as well as his parents were married and where Kenny had been blessed was draped with sweet-smelling ginger and pua-kenikeni. Maile encircled a portrait of Margaret Inouye taken in the 1980s. It's the same photo the senator keeps on his desk in Washington, D.C., and at his home office in Honolulu.

In her eulogy, Sumi McCabe, one of Mrs. Inouye's best friends from their early days as speech teachers, spoke of the Maggie Inouye the public didn't always see a woman who could always be counted on, but one who loved to laugh, kept the same hairdresser for 50 years, and could silence an unruly class with a look. McCabe recalled the time they were student-teaching together at Central Intermediate School.

"Maggie literally saved my life that semester," said McCabe, noting that as a small-town girl she knew nothing about the tough boys she would need to deal with and how she'd been brandishing a yardstick to maintain classroom discipline.

"But Maggie did no such thing," said McCabe, "and she got the same result. (It was) a simple shake of the head and, 'Tut-tut, that's not the way to do things.' I learned more about teaching that semester from Maggie than the supervisor."

Clara Katekaru, a friend from small-kid and college days, reminisced about the day she and Maggie left Hawai'i on the Lurline in 1946, both going off for master's degrees on the East Coast. Maggie was at Columbia, in New York, and Katekaru in Pittsburgh.

"That first Christmas she came all the way from New York and we spent the holiday together," remembered Katekaru. "She was concerned I was alone, and she came to spend her vacation time with me. That's the kind of person she was."

Along with Hawai'i friends, the service drew Senate colleagues including Sen. Daniel Akaka, Inouye's longtime friend U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska and his wife, Catherine, and U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Also in attendance were a delegation from the Alaska Federation of Natives, and representatives from each branch of the military.

Inouye aide Jennifer Sabas said one of the ways the senator is handling his grief is to keep busy. He planned to tour the Kaua'i flood devastation today in the Kilauea area of the island and talk to farmers to hear about the problems firsthand before returning to Washington.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.