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Senator from Maui believed in value of UH


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POSTED: Sunday, July 12, 2009

Henry T. Takitani, a World War II veteran, businessman, and former state senator who improved the University of Hawaii campus on Maui, died Monday at Maui Memorial Medical Center after a long illness. He was 85.

Takitani, born March 8, 1924, in Eleele, Kauai, graduated from Baldwin High School on Maui. After graduation, he was drafted into the Army and served in K Company with the 100th Battalion 442nd Infantry.

Afterward, he earned an economics degree from Illinois College then returned to work on Maui in the family business, which included the Maui Grand Hotel, Wailuku Motors, the Star Ice & Soda Works, and theaters in Wailuku, Lahaina, and Paia.

At the urging of his 442nd friends, he ran for state House in 1968 and won, his family said.

In 1970, he was elected a state senator, chairing the public employment, agriculture and higher education committees until 1980, when he resigned to run for Maui mayor.

“;His legacy is the modern- day Maui,”; said Dennis O'Connor, a former state senator who served with Takitani. “;If it weren't for Henry, you would not have the things you've got over there.”;

O'Connor credited Takitani with helping to grow the UH campus on Maui, initiating the science city on Halealaka, and encouraging development of the Kaanapali Resort.

“;He was a warm, engaging person,”; he added.

Takitani's daughter Sheila Kawahara said he had wanted to improve education in Hawaii.

“;He was fully for keeping Hawaii kids at home by making UH a stronger institution,”; she said. “;He was hoping that more kids would say that UH was a really good school and go to UH.”;

“;He was just a kind-hearted person,”; she added.

Takitani lost his bid for mayor and never returned to politics. Instead, he helped out at a Maui garden supply store he had started with his wife of 59 years, Shirley Takitani. The store, H&S Garden and Paint Center, is still owned and operated by the family.

Takitani is survived by daughters Sheila, Cheryl Takitani-Smith, and Roxanne Teshima; six granddaughters; and one great-granddaughter. Service will be at Ballard Family Mortuary next Sunday at 2 p.m. with visitation at 12 p.m.