Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Sakae Takahashi, above, was an attorney and banker.
He was active in Hawaii politics for many years.

Sakae Takahashi,
war hero, dies

He was a leader through
battle in both war and politics

More obituaries

By Richard Borreca

The man who convinced Dan Inouye to go into politics, Sakae Takahashi, died Monday at Straub Clinic and Hospital.

Takahashi was one of the early leaders in modern Hawaii, first in World War II, then in politics and finally in business.

"Sakae Takahashi was a great American," U.S. Sen. Inouye said yesterday.

"He was a leader in the executive branch, at the Legislature, on the battlefield and in the boardroom," Inouye added.

Takahashi, 81, was an attorney and a banker. He was a former chairman of the board and director of Central Pacific Bank and had been an attorney in private practice.

His history was linked to that of Inouye when the two wounded combat veterans were in an Atlantic City hospital.

"We started talking about what we were going to do," Takahashi recalled in a 1999 interview.

"I think I gave him the idea it is time we got involved in politics. We didn't want to go back to the prewar plantation days. There were a lot of things that could be done politically," Takahashi said.

Takahashi, an Army captain, went on to become the first Asian in the territorial Cabinet and majority leader in the territorial Senate when the Democrats took control of the Legislature in 1954.

Takahashi had served as an officer in the 100th Battalion in some of World War II's worst fighting.

Ted Tsukiyama, an attorney and historian of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and a friend of Takahashi's, recalled how the Japanese Americans fought two battles: discrimination and the Germans.

Tsukiyama said Takahashi, then a company commander in the 100th, recalled starting the battle of Monte Cassino with 46 men in his outfit.

By the end of the battle, only "three officers and 11 men reached the initial objective."

Yesterday, Tsukiyama said that in the last decade Takahashi had become an important resource for people researching the Japanese-American role in the war and "knew the details of battles and strategy."

Another friend, Halo Hirose, called Takahashi "one of the most respected officers in the 100th."

"Sakae was not a very talkative person, and he was a captain and I was a private, but we still hung out together," Hirose said.

While on leave in New York City, Hirose said they would usually wind up at the 14th Street YMCA, where Takahashi's wife to be, Bette, worked.

"She wanted to be an opera singer but gave it up for Sakae, and they had a wonderful marriage," Hirose said.

Inouye remarked that Takahashi is "most admired for being a good husband and father."

"I had the honor of standing with Sakae as his best man on his wedding day. My heart is heavy. I will miss my dear friend," Inouye said.

Takahashi served in the county board of supervisors in 1951; territorial Senate, 1954-59; state Senate, 1959-1974; and Constitutional Convention, 1968.

He was also the former treasurer of the territory of Hawaii.

He was born in Makaweli, Kauai, Dec. 8, 1919.

He is survived by his wife, Bette; sons Mark and Brian; daughters Karen Takahashi and Kathryn Teruya; brother Kenichi; sisters Hisae Yamashita and June Yamasaki; eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Nuuanu Mortuary. Call after 10 a.m.

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