'Compassionate legislator' Mitsuo Shito, 79
By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer
Mitsuo Shito, a seven-term state lawmaker who helped found Hawaii's Plantation Village, will be remembered by many for his ability to hear both sides of an issue and make a decision.
Shito, 79, of Waipahu, died Feb. 12. He was a state representative from 1974 to 1988 representing Waipahu, until he left to become director of the Hawaii Housing Authority. He also spent 42 years as a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, retiring as a sergeant major.
"He was a very compassionate legislator," said Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who served with Shito in the Legislature. "He always considered the needs of the nonprofit organization . He never did things to benefit himself. I had a great deal of respect for him."
"He was a great man," said his daughter, Eugenie Shito-Leong. "It will be hard to tell you about him and not cry."
Lon Paresa, who served as a staffer for Shito while he was in the Legislature and later became deputy director at the housing authority, called Shito a warrior first because of his 40 years as a guardsman and a statesman second because of his time in the Legislature.
As a lawmaker, Shito is credited with pushing through the creating of the Hawaii Development Finance Corporation and crafted laws that are still in effect that provide uniform allowances for Hawaii soldiers and a state tax deduction for National Guardsmen.
Jeffrey Higa, executive director of Hawaii's Plantation Village, said Shito was fully behind the mission of the outdoor museum as a way to preserve a piece of Hawaii history.
"He felt that if we didn't have something like this — a museum to showcase Hawaii's plantation past — then all the values and history of the plantation culture and lifestyle would disappear," Higa said.
Paresa said Shito was a proponent of higher education for people living in public housing and created a college scholarship fund for them that is run by the Hawaii Community Foundation. The scholarship fund is still awarding grants to students, Paresa said.
Shito is survived by his daughter, Eugenie Shito-Leong; two grandchildren; sister, Stella Iaea; and brother, Paul. Visitation will be at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at Mililani Mortuary Mauka Chapel, and a wake service will be at 6:30 p.m. Burial is at 11 a.m. Monday at Mililani Memorial Park.