HONOLULU (AP) — Friends and colleagues remembered the late U.S. Rep. Mark Takai as a warm public servant who never gave up when facing adversity, paying their respects in a ceremony at the state Capitol as a soft rain fell and palm branches swayed in the breeze.
A singer chanted a Hawaiian prayer as Hawaii Army National Guardsmen carried Takai's flag-draped coffin into the open-air rotunda Thursday, where he lay in state surrounded by wreaths of tropical anthurium.
"Mark was a true patriot," said U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who presented Takai's family with the flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol the day he died.
Former colleagues cried, bowed their heads and embraced as ukulele players strummed "Aloha Oe," a Hawaiian song performed to bid farewell. U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, who thought of Takai as a younger brother, draped a white ginger lei over his coffin.
"The joy with which he served the people was quite noticeable and amazing," Hirono said.
Takai, a Democrat, war veteran, and longtime National Guardsman, was serving his first term in the U.S. House when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died in July at age 49.
Takai, a Japanese American, served in the state House of Representatives for 20 years before he was elected to Congress, and was lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard where he served for more than a decade. During Takai's deployment in Kuwait in 2009 he excelled at the gritty, difficult and diplomatically challenging work, said Adjutant General Arthur "Joe" Logan.
"Mark's exemplary civilian skills played a major role in his duties during that deployment," Logan said. "He was essentially the mayor of the U.S. sector of the base, ensuring that our forces were being taken care of."
Takai showed the same character in his fight against cancer that he showed in public service, facing challenges with grace and strength, colleagues said.
"Mark never quit," said House Speaker Joe Souki. "His entire life was about working hard for what really matters."