FAIRBANKS — The death of Sen. Daniel Inouye on Monday drew the condolences of Alaska’s congressional delegation, who recognized the Hawaii Democrat as a war hero and friend of Alaska and its people.
Inouye, who died at age 88 following a respiratory illness, was the second-longest serving U.S. Senator in history. The Medal of Honor recipient also formed a special relationship with the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, a fellow World War II veteran and longtime friend.
Although Inouye and Stevens, a Republican, were from different parties, they worked together to provide funding and support for their respective states. Regardless of which was serving in the majority, they would reliably back the other’s request to support projects to his home state.
Alaska’s congressional delegation offered praise for Inouye, saying he was a reliable champion for Alaska. They also remembered Inouye, who lost his arm to a German grenade, as a staunch patriot.
Sen. Mark Begich said Inouye was a booster for many Alaska issues, including construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, funding for Alaska villages and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
Begich hosted Inouye on a visit to Alaska earlier in the spring.
“We will always remember his hearty laugh and ready smile,” Begich said in a statement. “Today is a sad day for Alaskans, Hawaiians and all Americans. His long, honorable career will not soon be forgotten.”
Stevens served as best man at Inouye’s wedding, and Inouye testified as a character witness for Stevens in 2008 when the Alaska senator faced corruption charges.
Murkowski said in a statement that Inouye had left a lasting imprint on both Hawaii and Alaska since becoming his home state’s first congressman in 1959.
“He fought for his people and his culture every day since on Capitol Hill, and he was a stalwart defender of his state’s first people — as well as Alaska Natives and Native Americans,” Murkowski said. “He felt the bond shared by the two ‘island states’ of Alaska and Hawaii, taking a lasting pride in his close friendship with Sen. Ted Stevens, a man he called his brother.”
Rep. Don Young issued a statement saying he was “deeply saddened” by the news of Inouye’s death and offering condolences to his family and staff.
“The islands of Hawaii and the state of Alaska lost a true friend,” he said. “A war hero and member of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ Sen. Inouye was an institution in the Senate and was a tireless public servant for Hawaii since before its statehood.”
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