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Hawai‘i State Rep.Tsuji Dies

November 15, 2016, 2:16 PM HST
* Updated November 15, 5:29 PM
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Hawai‘i Island State Rep. Clift Tsuji

Hawai‘i Island State Rep. Clift Tsuji. Hawai‘i State Legislature photo.

State Rep. Clift Tsuji, 75, died today at the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, the state House of Representatives reported.

Tsuji, a Democrat, represented House District 2 on the Big Island, including Keaukaha, portions of Hilo, Panaewa and Waiakea. He first served in the House in 2004.

He was a vocal supporter of biotechnology and genetically modified crops, and was also a proponent of geothermal energy as an alternative to imported oil.

Tsuji was re-elected to his seat in the primary election, defeating two challengers. He had no opponent in general election.

“Rep. Clift Tsuji was a quiet man with a big heart who had the courage to stand for his convictions,” said Gov. David Ige today. “He was a passionate leader and a vigorous advocate for the Hilo community. His legacy of service will be remembered by his constituents and all Hawai‘i island residents. He was a personal friend and I am going to miss his presence at the State Capitol. Dawn and I send our condolences to his sons, Ryan and Ashley.”

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“Rep. Tsuji was low-key in style but a firm fighter for the needs of the people of the Big Island,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. “He will be especially remembered for his advocacy of agriculture and its essential role in the economy and culture of Hawai‘i. Clift was earnest, hardworking and always had a kind word for people. He will be greatly missed.”

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“Clift Tsuji represented the Hilo community that he grew up in, and his drive to build a better future was evident by his actions,” said Sen. Mazie K. Hirono. “Clift brought a wealth of experience and over 30 years of business acumen to the Hawai‘i State House of Representatives. His voice on behalf of agriculture across the state will be missed. I considered Clift a friend, and my thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”

“My deepest condolences go out to the ohana of Representative Clift Tsuji during this very difficult time,” said Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui. “Clift leaves behind a legacy as a strong voice for the people and a staunch advocate for Hawaii’s agriculture community.  I will always remember Clift’s booming voice coupled with his friendly and approachable nature.  Those who were fortunate to have known him will also remember his kindness and the aloha he shared with the countless people he touched.  He will be missed.”

“Clift Tsuji was a friend,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “He was a decent, gentle man who cared so much about his community. He had much more to give and his passing is a tragic event for all of Hawai‘i.”

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“I am deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague Rep. Clift Tsuji,” said Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi. “He will be remembered for his hard work supporting Hawai‘i’s agriculture, his commitment to the residents of his district and his warm and ready smile. On behalf of the Hawai‘i State Senate, our deepest condolences to the Tsuji family.”

“Today, Hawaiʻi lost a dedicated public servant,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02). “Born and raised in Papaikou, Rep. Clift Tsuji served the people of Hawaiʻi Island throughout his life. After graduating from Hilo High School, Rep. Tsuji served as a U.S. Army Reservist with the 442nd Infantry out of Hilo, and continued to serve Hawaiʻi Island in various community organizations, as a successful businessman, and as a representative for the people of Keaukaha, Panaewa, Waiakea and parts of Hilo. As chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Tsuji helped champion legislation to fight invasive species and strengthen our biosecurity.  I saw Rep. Tsuji recently at the Hilo Veterans Parade and, as usual, he was full of aloha, as he welcomed me to the community he loved so much. Today, my heart is with Rep. Tsuji’s family, friends, and all whose lives he touched.”

“It is with great sadness to learn that Representative Clift Tsuji has passed away,” said HIDOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “As a Hilo native, I knew Clift and his commitment to his community and public service. Two weeks ago we spoke about his district and he expressed his support for the educational progress made. Sincere condolences go out to his family during this difficult time. He will be greatly missed.”

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Representative Clift Tsuji today,” said Sen. Kaiali‘i Kahele (District 1, Hilo). “A proud graduate of Hilo High School, Clift represented Hilo honorably for over 12 years in the House of Representatives. He proudly wore our nations uniform in the 442nd Infantry and was recognized as the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau’s Legislator of the Year in 2015. I will always remember his warm smile, friendship and encouragement he extended to me as a new legislator at the Capitol.

“He leaves behind a legacy of service, hope and a better Hawaiʻi for our children,” said Sen. Kahele. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family, many friends and his sons Ashley Allen and Ryan Kalei.”

“On behalf of the Judiciary, I extend our sincere thoughts and condolences to Rep. Clift Tsuji’s family,”
said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Hawai‘i State Supreme Court. “Rep. Tsuji was a genuinely kind and caring person and an outstanding public servant who represented the people of Hilo with pride.  He was also a strong supporter of the new courthouse in Kona, and the work being done by pro bono attorneys who volunteer their time providing legal assistance to the community.  We thank Rep. Tsuji for his service and dedication to the people of Hawai‘i.”

“We are saddened by the news of the passing of Representative Clift Tsuji,” said Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra, Third Circuit. “He has always been a big supporter of the Third Circuit and has attended numerous judiciary-related functions because of his genuine care for people and our community.  We appreciate all his support throughout the years. We will miss him and send our condolences to his family.”

“The Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Hawaii is deeply saddened by the news of Rep. Clift Tsuji’s passing,” said Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Hawai‘i President Russell Arikawa,. He was truly a public servant, and a long-time member of our chamber. He served our country in the 442nd Infantry from 1959 to 1965, and our beloved Hawai‘i Island as state Representative since 2004.”Rep. Tsuji was a strong supporter of agriculture and economic diversity for our island and state and as a Chamber, we counted on him to support our island in the Legislature,” siad Arikawa. “Our hearts and prayers are with his family; his genuine, friendly spirit will truly be missed.”

“Rep. Tsuji was a strong supporter of agriculture and economic diversity for our island and state and as a Chamber, we counted on him to support our island in the Legislature,” siad Arikawa. “Our hearts and prayers are with his family; his genuine, friendly spirit will truly be missed.”

Tsuji was born on Jan. 20, 1941, and raised in Papaikou.

Rep. Tsuji is a 1959 graduate of Hilo High School and completed his post-secondary degrees at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and the University of Washington, Pacific Coast Banking School.

He served in the U.S. Army Reserve, 442nd Infantry, Company B, Hilo, from 1959 to 1965.

His two sons, Ashley Allen and Ryan Kalei, are graduates of Waiakea High School in Hilo.

A cause of death has not yet been released. The family requested privacy. Services are pending.

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