Sad news. U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, a first-term Congressman from Hawaii's first district, died Wednesday morning in Honolulu, nine months after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 49.
Mark Takai, Congressman from Hawaii, Dies at 49
Born and raised in Oahu, Takai was a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard and veteran of the Iraq War. At the age of 27, he was elected to the Hawaii State Legislature, where he served for twenty years before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014.
Last fall, Takai confirmed that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and underwent surgery to remove a tumor in his pancreas, followed by chemotherapy. In February, he announced that he would seek re-election, but later announced that he would not run for a second term after learning the cancer had spread.
"Right now, for the sake of my family, I need to focus on getting better rather than getting re-elected," Takai said in a statement at the time. "Although I will not be running for re-election, I intend to serve out the remainder of my term in Congress. There is still much work that I am determined to see through for Hawaii and our nation over the next few months."
A statement from his office said Takai passed away at his home, surrounded by his family.
President Obama said that he and Mrs. Obama were saddened to learn of the death of the congressman, calling Takai a public servant who leaves "a legacy of courage, of service, and of hope."
"Mark was always a fighter," President Obama said in a statement. "It's the spirit he brought to more than two decades of public service on behalf of the people of Hawaii. He stood up for America's most vulnerable. He championed our troops and veterans, and proudly wore our nation's uniform. And his relentless push for cancer research inspired countless Americans fighting the same battle as him. Simply put, our country is better off because of Mark's contributions."
"Today, our nation lost a true patriot, public servant, and friend with the passing of Congressman Mark Takai," Rep. Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a statement. "Mark was a decorated war veteran and proud member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, but more importantly, he was an outstanding colleague who truly embodied the aloha spirit and worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the people of Hawaii and all Americans."
I'm completely heartbroken to hear that @RepMarkTakai has lost his battle with cancer. He was a great leader. I already miss my friend.— Judy Chu (@RepJudyChu) July 20, 2016
Rep. Chu highlighted Takai's efforts on behalf of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community, including efforts to reunite Filipino World War II veterans with their loved ones, secure treatment for veterans suffering from service-related radiation exposure, and commemorate the patriotism of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Takai is survived by his wife, Sami Takai, and two children, Matthew and Kaila.
More here: U.S. Rep. Mark Takai dies after battle with pancreatic cancer