Maggie Inouye, Wife of Senator Daniel Inouye, Passes Away at 81

“I am saddened to report that my dear and lovely wife of nearly 57 years, Margaret Awamura Inouye, passed away today at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at Walter Reed Army Medical Center,” said U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye in a statement released by his office today. “She was 81, and her death was due to complications resulting from colon cancer.

“Maggie was recently hospitalized because an examination found small blood clots and some fluid in her right lung, and she had been undergoing a process of draining out the fluid and dissolving the blood clots.

“This most recent medical challenge came after Maggie underwent surgery in November 2004 to remove a cancerous growth from her large intestine. Her surgeons had pronounced that operation a success.

“As she has done throughout her life, Maggie handled her difficult situation without complaint, and with dignity and grace. Although her chemotherapy treatments would leave her drained, she always had a smile for you and she retained her optimistic outlook.

“It was a most special blessing to have had Maggie in my life for 58 years. She was my inspiration, and all that I have accomplished could not have been done without her at my side. We were a team. She always supported me, listened to my ideas, and many times offered invaluable suggestions that always proved she was capable of achieving as much on her own right, given her intelligence and education. Instead, she chose to join me on a special journey that took us to Washington, and gave us the privilege of serving the people of Hawaii.

“On the campaign trail, she was invaluable. During my first race for the U.S. Senate in 1962, legislative work in the U.S. House permitted me to make only short trips back to Hawaii. I was facing a formidable opponent, the son of the wealthiest man in Hawaii. Both Time and Newsweek magazines didn’t think much of my chances of winning. But Maggie put some magic into my campaign. She returned to Hawaii that June, and spent seven days a week visiting every island and making hundreds of speeches on my behalf. When I finally did get back in October, my campaign manager met me at the airport and said, ‘We’re glad to have you, but Maggie’s been doing great.’ I won, and I won big. In my heart, I know that without her I could not have won that pivotal race that put me on the path to become a United States Senator.

“I first met Maggie in the autumn of 1947, a week before Thanksgiving, when we were introduced to each other. She was already known as a poised, graceful, articulate, and gentle lady from a good family who was very much ahead of her time. Back then, few women went to college. But Maggie not only earned her undergraduate degree in education from the University of Hawaii, she went on to earn a master’s in education from Columbia University in New York City. With her graduate degree, she returned home to Hawaii, and began her career as a speech instructor at UH.

“I, too, had returned home – from the war and from my injury rehabilitation regimen that I had undergone on the mainland. I was enrolled at the University of Hawaii, and was still trying to chart my future. However, I was certain of one thing almost immediately after I met Maggie: I was going to marry her. I don’t think the possibility of marriage had ever occurred to me before that moment, but afterward it never left my mind. Everything I had and wanted to have suddenly became absolutely meaningless unless Margaret Awamura would share it with me.

“On our second date on December 6, 1947, I asked her to marry me. Without hesitation, she said, ‘Yes.’ Her answer made me feel like I was in heaven. She was willing to have as her lifelong partner a man who at that time was nothing more than a combat veteran on the GI Bill whose future was still uncertain. Her numerous other suitors had much more to offer, as they were already professional men.

“During the 18 months before our marriage on June 12, 1949, we were an unusual couple on the UH campus. She was an instructor; I was an underclassman. Of course, it was Maggie’s salary as a teacher at the university that saw us through those first years of our marriage.

“In the early 1950s when I was studying at George Washington to earn my law degree, Maggie was the breadwinner, while I contributed what I received from my GI education benefits and my pension as a retired Army Captain. While I was in class, she was working at the Department of the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks, first as a file clerk and soon she was promoted to administrative secretary.

When we returned to Hawaii, I went to work for the City and County of Honolulu as a Deputy Public Prosecutor, while Maggie returned to the University of Hawaii as an instructor in education. It was a position she would hold for six years.

“In 1964, five years after she left UH, Maggie gave birth to our son, Daniel K. Inouye, Jr. That was a most special day, perhaps because we became parents at a rather late stage in our lives.

“Kenny and I – as well as the people of Hawaii – were blessed to have had Maggie in our lives. She was a most special woman, and she will always be in my heart.”

In addition to Senator Inouye and Daniel K. Inouye, Jr., Mrs. Inouye is survived by five sisters, Edith Satow of Carmarillo, California; Grace Murakami of Honolulu; Betty Higashino of Orinda, California; Shirley Nozoe of Honolulu; and Patricia Tyler of Sudbury, Massachusetts. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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