They came in dark suits and dresses, royal capes and military regalia, in slippers, T-shirts and shorts, in wheelchairs and strollers.
They all came, thousands of them, to say goodbye to Dan Inouye.
The late U.S. senator was honored in a somber and dignified ceremony Saturday evening at the Hawaii Capitol Rotunda, where his flag-draped casket was to lie in state until midnight.
It was the third memorial for Inouye in three days, the first two held in Washington, D.C., where Inouye, 88, first began his congressional tenure some 53 years ago.
The fourth and final funeral is set for Sunday, where the VIPs will include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
Saturday night’s service, which lasted just over an hour, had its share of VIPS, too, all of the local variety. They included the heads of Hawaii’s executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
“Well done, oh good and faithful servant. Rest easy now,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie in his eulogy. “You are home with us in paradise.”
Inouye’s coffin was carried from a hearse on the Beretania Street side of the Capitol by six pallbearers from the Hawaii National Guard’s Honor Guard. With the blowing of puu, the Royal Order of Kamehameha led the procession along a red carpet as viewers raised their smart phones and tablets to take pictures.
Following the National Anthem and “Hawaii Ponoi,” Kahu Kordell Kekoa gave the invocation for Inouye, who he called “a mountain of a man.” On this day there was no division between people, he said, because today “we are all one ohana.”
Senate President Shan Tsutsui called Inouye “a shining example of all that is good in Hawaii and all that is good in America.” Inouye, he said, was a rainbow that connected Hawaii with Washington. He taught people that they should remember every day when they awake that there is “a privilege and a joy in helping one another.”
House Speaker Calvin Say spoke of Inouye’s courage, how he “did not bend with the wind of special interests.”
“He knew that trust was the greatest currency in the world of politics,” said Say.
In between the four speakers, the Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii played the Irish favorite “Danny Boy.”
Then, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald told the story of how someone once spilled a glass of red wine on the senator’s white suit.
“‘Don’t worry, it’s OK,'” was Inouye’s gentle response, said Recktenwald, observing, “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they would react.”
In the chief justice’s view, this is what Inouye stood for: “Do what’s right, don’t forget your roots, and speak for those who don’t have a voice.”
It was left to Abercrombie to offer the final words. He began by recalling how Inouye volunteered into the all-Asian-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team after the Pearl Harbor attack. It came at a time when 120,000 AJAs were being rounded up and sent to internment camps because they were deemed “undesirable aliens,” the governor explained.
Abercrombie shared the words Inouye’s father told the young man just before he joined the military to fight in World War II: “This county has been good to us. We owe this county a lot. Whatever you do, do not bring dishonor to it. Do not bring dishonor to our name.”
Duty. Honor. Country. Leadership. Excellence.
“He comes to us now as a keiki o ka aina, a child of these islands,” Abercrombie said. “All duty is done, all tasks completed, all honor fulfilled, all responsibilities met. … The Hawaii skies above you are blue.”
And with that, the people of Hawaii fell in line to pay their last respects to Daniel K. Inouye.
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