Local lawmakers, colleagues remember Kenoi for his passion for public service

Updated: Jan. 26, 2021 at 6:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii leaders are mourning the loss of former Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi who died Tuesday at the age of 52.

Condolences poured in from friends and former colleagues following word of his death.

Hawaii Island Mayor Mitch Roth issued a statement remembering Kenoi as a community servant who cared deeply for the people of Hawaii Island.

“Billy Kenoi was the embodiment of a true Big Island boy and a pillar of our community. His time as mayor and the accomplishments made under his direction were just a small glimpse of the man he was and the aloha he had for this community,” Roth said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Takako and his three children today as we remember a man who brought with him tenacity, vigor, aloha, and a can-do attitude that is unparalleled to most.”

Another former mayor, Harry Kim said Kenoi’s diagnosis brought on worry amongst close friends, but they knew he was a fighter, and did his best to battle the disease.

“Many many months ago, when everyone heard he was sick... you accepted fatality because of the news of the cancer. And then he pulled out of it so you’re full of hope,” Kim said.

“Then a couple of downs, then up again. And the last we heard was on the up. But I think all of us, on the reality of what we know, this extended time that was given to him was gift, a gift to everyone who had him for all that extra time and we should appreciate that,” he added.

In a statement, U.S. Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele echoed similar sentiments, calling Kenoi a dear friend who always had a positive outlook.

“Throughout his life, and especially as a leader of the people, Billy always had the attitude that anything is possible. In what would become a viral commencement address to Hawaiʻi Pacific University graduates, Billy said, ʻThere is no such thing as no can … always can!’” Kahele said.

“He knew how to make anyone feel special, through his inspiring words he was able to touch the hearts of others, and in doing so, often created positive change in the community where needed,” the statement added.

Kahele also said Kenoi would be the last person to accept recognition for things, exemplifying humility and leading by example.

State Senate President Ronald Kouchi said, “I was saddened to learn about the passing of former Hawaiʻi Island Mayor Billy Kenoi. He was a dedicated public servant who deeply cared about the people of Hawaiʻi. Even in the midst of his own health challenges, Billy continued to inspire those around him through with his warm sense of humor and his gift of oratory.”

Gov. Ige has ordered flags to fly at half staff on the day of Kenoi’s memorial services. Details are in the works.

This story may be updated.

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