HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tributes poured in during bittersweet celebrations on what would have been the late Senator Dan Inouye's 89th birthday. Roughly 200 people gathered at the Honolulu Civic Center to remember his accomplishments. The festivities included the dedication of a new kukui nut tree and the unveiling of a plaque.
"I think If he were looking down on us, which he probably is, he would be saying, 'What is all the commotion?' His birthday celebrations were always a single rose on his desk. Very quiet," said Jennifer Sabas, Inouye's chief of staff.
Officials on the Big Island dedicated a new connector and renamed a road after Inouye. The latest section is on the Kona side of the former Saddle Road. The Daniel K. Inouye highway will shorten the drive between Hilo and Kona by 18 minutes. The senator helped secure millions of dollars in funds for road improvements.
"He was all about what was good for the island and how the state would really be able to prosper in the future," said Irene Hirano Inouye, the senator's widow.
"Even if the senator has passed, his spirit is with us and we're going to complete this coast to coast until Queen Kaahumanu Highway from here down and the intersection will be at Waikoloa Beach Road," said Walter Kunitake, a member of the Saddle Road task force.
Those closest to the senator hope that his legacy continues to live on.
"He never wanted anything named after him and so he'd probably would be not that pleased with the hullabaloo, but I think it's the values, the values and the optimism for the future that I would really like people to remember him for," said Sabas.