East Hawaii News

Dignitaries Comment on the Passing of Senator Kahele

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Senator Gilbert Kahele. Hawai'i State Senate photo.

Senator Gilbert Kahele. Hawai’i State Senate photo.

Dignitaries from across the state have come together to express their condolences following the passing of Senator Gilbert Kahele who represented the First Senatorial District of Hilo.

Jill Kuramoto, Senate Majority Spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the Senator died at 7:55 a.m. surrounded by family at Queens Medical Center.

Senator Kahele, a democrat, was appointed to the Senate in 2011 by former Governor Neil Abercrombie.

In 2012, Senator Kahele was elected to represent the community of Hilo, now known as the 1st Senatorial District as a result of reapportionment.

Senator Kahele played important roles in various aspects of the community, including bringing funding to build the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.  He also was a staunch supporter behind the creation of a world-class School of Aviation at Hilo Airport and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.


During his time in the Senate, he chaired the Tourism and International Affairs Committee.

Senator Kahele was a United States Marine, who also spent three decades of his life working for the Hawai’i Department of Defense.

On the Big Island, Senator Kahele was the chairman of the Hawai’i County Police Commission and was vice chairman of the Democratic Party for East Hawai’i.

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi issued the following statement:

“The Hilo community and the State of Hawai‘i today has lost a great Senator, a gentleman, and passionate advocate who cared deeply about public service and the people he represented. I am honored to have served with him and I know his fellow colleagues in the Senate feel the same.


“Senator Kahele’s family thanks the public for their words of support and aloha and respectfully asks for privacy at this difficult time.

“Senator Kahele’s staff will be in the office to handle the concerns and issues of the district. His Tourism and International Affairs committee will be handled by the Vice Chair, Sen. J. Kalani English.

“I send heartfelt condolences to the Kahele family as we mourn the loss of this remarkable man.”

Governor David Ige issued the following statement:

“It is with much sadness that I learned of Senator Kahele’s passing. He was a dedicated public servant who spent the last few years working for the good of his beloved community at the Hawai‘i State Legislature. He was a respected and influential leader both in the legislature and in his hometown community of Hilo. My deepest condolences to his ‘ohana, friends and supporters during this difficult time.”


Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui issued the following statement:

“I am deeply saddened to learn today of the passing of my dear friend, Senator Gilbert Kahele.  Gil was a warm and caring man with the highest principles and values, who had the unique ability to always make you feel welcomed and at ease.  I was honored to have served as his colleague in the Senate and to have continued our friendship thereafter.  I will miss his kindness, positive outlook, and ability to make me laugh.

“I send my thoughts and prayers to Gil’s ohana and friends.  He was a committed and loving husband, father and grandfather, who spoke often of his loved ones with great joy and pride.  The people of Hawai’i were privileged that a man of his experience and dedication devoted his life to public service.  His smile and infectious laugh will continue to live on in our hearts and minds forever.”

Senator Mazie Hirono issued the following statement:

“Gil Kahele served Hawai’i and our country with distinction for more than 50 years, first in the U.S. Marine Corps, then as a community advocate and in elected office. I will remember Gil for his kindness and tireless work on behalf of the people of Hawai’i Island and our state. Gil’s steadfast advocacy on behalf of individuals and families ensured that the resources were available to address community needs for Tropical Storm Iselle and the Puna lava flow. My thoughts and prayers are with Gil’s wife Linda and the entire Kahele ohana.”

Senator Brian Schatz  issued the following statement:

“Gil Kahele was one of the kindest, most decent, most caring public servants that I have ever known.  His heart for the people of his community made him an effective leader, community organizer, and Senator.  He was so kind to me and to everyone whom he touched.  This is a sad day and he will be missed.”

Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the Judiciary, I extend our sincere thoughts and condolences to Senator Kahele’s family. Senator Kahele was a warm and caring person, and an outstanding legislator.  He was a strong supporter of constructing a new courthouse in Kona.  We thank Senator Kahele for his distinguished service to the people of Hawaii.”

Representative Tulsi Gabbard issued the following statement:

“Today we lost a dedicated servant of the people. Senator Gil Kahele was born in Milolii in South Kona, graduated from Hilo High School, and selflessly served our country as a U.S. Marine.  He went on to work for 33 years for the Department of Defense, finishing his service at Pohakuloa Training Area.  Five years ago, he answered the governor’s call to serve the people of Hawaiʻi Island by representing them in the State Senate.  He has always been known as a strong advocate for the people of Hawaiʻi Island, serving as their voice at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol, especially through times of challenge and hardship.  I saw him recently in Washington, DC, where as always, he was ready with a smile, a hug, warm aloha, and a picture to post on his Facebook page.  My heart is with the Kahele ʻohana, and all of Hawai’i Island.  Gil, you are missed.”

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