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Hundreds Honor Hawaii Rep. Mink

October 4, 2002

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HONOLULU (AP) _ Hundreds gathered at Hawaii’s state Capitol to remember the late Democratic Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink and share stories about the petite but fiery orator who helped open doors of opportunity for women and minorities.

``In my mind, I can still hear her voice,″ former state Rep. Jim Shon said at the Thursday memorial. ``Patsy’s voice was so distinctive, not only because of its tone but because of its intensity.″

Pall bearers from the various military services slowly carried Mink’s flag-draped casket from a hearse through a column of mourners holding their hands over their hearts. Following were Mink’s husband, John, and daughter, Wendy, walking with Gov. Ben Cayetano.

About two dozen of Mink’s family members and closest friends were in the procession to a large white tent in the center of the open-air rotunda. Mink’s body was to lie in state there until public services Friday morning.

Placed next to the closed casket was a large portrait of Mink, draped with a maile lei. Tropical plants and flower wreaths walled the open-sided tent. The Royal Hawaiian Band played.

A delegation of about 25 members of Congress were expected to fly in from Washington for Friday’s service, including House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, who will represent President Bush.

Mink died Saturday from viral pneumonia. She was 74.

Shon recalled that as a graduate student on his first trip to Washington in the late 1970s, Mink met with him at the congressional cafeteria where they had Portuguese bean soup, a Hawaii favorite.

``It was just me and her. She always had, it seems, time for just one person, just as insignificant as they might have been,″ Shon said. ``She made people feel that they were important and she felt that they were important.″

At dusk, dozens of members and supporters of women’s advocacy groups lined up along a long green ribbon to form what organizers called ``a lei of aloha″ in Mink’s memory, dropping flowers to ring the area as they disbanded.

``There’s no one else like her, not in politics today,″ said Gary Gill, the state’s deputy health director for environmental issues and son of former Rep. Tom Gill, whose seat Mink won in 1964 after Gill made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate.

State Rep. Barbara Marumoto, a Republican, said despite her political differences, she respected Mink as a role model and pioneer for women and minorities.

In the 1950, Japanese-American women who went to college looked at becoming teachers or nurses, but Mink went to law school and in the 1970s was a candidate for president, she said.

``For a Japanese woman, that’s really amazing,″ Marumoto said.

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