Former mayor Frank Fasi dies
Former Honolulu Mayor Frank F. Fasi died last night in his Makiki home at the age of 89.
A statement from his son David said Fasi “died peacefully of natural causes late last night ... surrounded by his adoring wife and children.”
As news of Fasi’s passing spread, tributes began to roll in.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who honored Fasi by persuading City Council members to change the law to rename the Honolulu civic center grounds and the Honolulu Municipal Building after Fasi, said he was “heartbroken.”
“Frank Fasi earned a reputation as a maverick among the establishment politicos during his years in public office, but he was the bold and gutsy leader who shaped modern Honolulu,” Hannemann said in a statement. “His enduring achievements are all around us: TheBus, the Fasi Civic Center, senior citizens programs, Honolulu City Lights, farmers markets, satellite city halls, and on and on. Even rail transit was a centerpiece of his administration.”
Jim Loomis, Fasi’s director of information and complaint from 1971 to 1979, said the mayor inspired those who worked for him.
“There was always something going on,” Loomis said. “He always had a new project that inspired him, and through him, inspired us. You went into work every single day thinking that you were going to get the chance to do something important that day. And it was because of Frank and his leadership.”
Honolulu’s newest council member, Ikaika Anderson, said he’s admired Fasi for years. Anderson’s uncle, D.G. “Andy” Anderson, was Fasi’s one-time rival and later his managing director.
“He was truly one of the greatest mayors Honoluu has ever had, a visionary who spoke with action rather than words,” Ikaika Anderson said. “Mayor Fasi dedicated his best years to making this city the best it could be, and we have him to thank for many of the programs and services offered by the City and County of Honolulu today.”
A former Marine, "Fearless Frank" is credited with establishing a number of innovations in Honolulu, from TheBus to satellite city halls to open markets.
Fasi was also known for his many political fights, with everyone from a series of governors to Honolulu’s newspapers.
When City Council members objected to the loss of their parking spaces behind City Hall fronting Hotel Street, Fasi struck early one morning with a bulldozer and pulled up the asphalt, creating the mall that’s now called the Frank F. Fasi Civic Center.
Former Fasi aide Carol Costa said that led the state to follow suit and create a “lei of green” on the state Capitol side of Hotel Street as well.
“When people look at it today, they don’t realize that the Diamond Head side of City Hall used to be all parking,” Costa said. “And now it’s all green. He was ahead of his time, building an underground parking lot, putting a berm over it, and placing a child care center on top and the large municipal building next door."
In 2006, Hannemann renamed the Honolulu Municipal Building the Frank F. Fasi Municipal Building.
Fasi was mayor from 1968 until 1980, when he lost to Eileen Anderson. But he was back four years later, defeating Anderson to reclaim his seat. He would remain mayor until 1994, when he resigned to run again for governor.
A tireless campaigner known for his independent streak, he instilled fear in the hearts of establishment Democrats for his ability to draw huge numbers of supporters from diverse sections of the community. Marketing himself as champion of the local guy, his campaign symbol became the shaka sign.
"The man affectionately known by many in Hawaii simply as 'the Mayor' truly loved this city of Honolulu and devoted much of his life in trying to improve it,” the Fasi family statement says.
“A tireless champion for the 'little guy,' he was particularly interested in helping those who could not help themselves. He will be dearly missed."
Fasi was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on August 27, 1920. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Joyce, and their children, Charles, Frank Jr., Gina, David, Gioia Fasi Arrillaga and Salvador, as well as his children from a previous marriage, Toni, Kathleen, Carl, Paul and Francesca Brittain, and numerous grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.