Honolulu remembers former Mayor Fasi


POSTED: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Honolulu remembered Frank Fasi with a public memorial service for the feisty former mayor known as much for his combative political personality as his considerable accomplishments in office.

The service was held this morning in the courtyard of Honolulu Hale, with a large viewing screen set up outside in a public viewing area.

Draped in a U.S. flag, Fasi's coffin was escorted into Honolulu Hale by a Marine Corps color guard and members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Hawaii Chapter. Fasi was an honorary alii of the Order. Members saluted the coffin and greeted the Fasi family, who lined the front of the stage.

After the playing of “;Impossible Dream,”; as sung by Hawaiian entertainer Willie K, Fasi's son, Charles, remembered his father as a “;voice for those whose voices were not heard and those in need.”;

“;He never forgot that he once was the little guy,”; Fasi said.

Charles Fasi recalled his father's love for Hawaii and his start in the islands as a small businessman before launching what became a 60-year career in politics.

“;My dad loved being mayor and there was nothing he wouldn't do to help people and his beloved city—as he would say, his 12th child,”; Fasi said.

Frank Fasi, who served as Honolulu mayor for 22 years, died Feb. 3. He was 89.

Choking up as he eulogized his father, Fasi thanked all those who turned out for the service and who have shared their stories of the mayor with him over the past month.

“;In his 89 years of life we see that the love he gave has been returned to him 100 fold,”; he said.

Ed Hirata, who served as Fasi's managing director, described his boss as “;an energetic guy who wanted to make Honolulu the best city in the country.”;

He spoke of Fasi's tireless effort to improve the city, from the municipal building that now bears his name to the civic grounds to the city bus system, recalling the famous tale of Fasi's trip to Dallas to buy the vehicles.

Hirata ticked off the attributes that made Fasi a champion of Honolulu.

“;Was he the greatest mayor the city ever had? There's no doubt in my mind hat he was,”; Hirata said, adding, “;Good luck in your quest to make heaven a better place.”;

Gov. Linda Lingle, who is in attendance, has ordered that state flags fly at half staff throughout the day in honor of Fasi.

City Council members past and present, along with dignitaries including Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, neighbor island mayors, and former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie are in attendance.

Hannemann also took a turn at remembering Fasi, first thanking the former mayor's family for allowing the city to honor him publicly with the service at Honolulu Hale.

He broke down the letters of Fasi's name to describe the attributes he felt best embodied his predecessor in office: friend, ability, strength and ingenuity.

“;He looked at every crisis, every challenge, as an opportunity to be creative and make things better,”; Hannemann said.

He recalled how his father always voted for Fasi because he stood up for the little guy.

“;One of the hardest things I had to do was tell my dad in 2000, I said, 'Daddy this is one election you cannot vote for Frank Fasi,'”; Hannemann recalled. “;He said why, I said, 'Because your son is running for the same office.”;

The mayor ended his eulogy by singing a Fasi campaign jingle.

Hawaiian entertainer and former running mate Danny Kaleikini performed a rendition of Frank Sinatra's “;My Way,”; on the second floor landing overlooking the casket, looking skyward at times and closing with the line, “;Frank Fasi you did it, you did it your way.”;

Kahu Curtis Kekuna of Kawaiahao Church ended the remembrances of “;the people's mayor,”; recalling how Fasi gave residents a sense of ownership in the city.

“;He was our hero, fighting to raise our quality of life,”; Kekuna said. “;We all know the time was always right now.”;

Melveen Leed closed the service with a rendition of “;Kanaka Wai Wai,”; also from the second floor landing, before Kekuna delivered the benediction.

About 200 invited guests attended the roughly 75-minute memorial service inside Honolulu Hale. After the service, Fasi's body will lie in state for public viewing until 6 p.m.

Flowers lined the stage inside Honolulu Hale with one arrangement designed in the shape of Fasi's trademark “;shaka”; campaign sign. Photos of the former mayor were arranged in displays around the hall, showing Fasi from various times during his administration.

Fasi served as mayor for 22 years from his election in 1968 to 1994, a stretch broken only by what he called a “;forced sabbatical”; after voters turned him out for a term from 1980-84. He mounted five unsuccessful quests for governor from 1974 to 1998.

After one gubernatorial loss, Fasi was asked what he would run for next, and the ever-colorful politician reminded reporters, “;The pope is an elected office.”;

His last political bid came in 2004, when he tried unsuccessfully to regain the mayor's seat.