HONOLULU, Hawaii – To the sound of a conch shell and a traditional Hawaiian chant, Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink was remembered for her sincerity, integrity and tenacity in fighting for her strong liberal beliefs.
About 1,500 people gathered in the rotunda of the state Capitol Friday for the funeral of the petite, energy-packed Democratic lawmaker known throughout the islands and the nation's capital simply as "Patsy." She had been the first woman from an ethnic minority to serve in Congress.
Hawaii political and business leaders, Democrats and Republicans, joined with two dozen of Mink's congressional colleagues, the state's two senators, and Mink's family and friends in a massive public funeral that packed the multitiered atrium of the State Capitol. More than 1,000 people stood around the balconies and behind 300 seated mourners facing Mink's flag-draped coffin.
An honor guard from Washington, D.C., had watched over the closed casket through the night, as hundreds of people entered a tent to pay their last respects. Mink, who served a total of 12 terms in Congress, died last Saturday of viral pneumonia. She was 74.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, the only Democrat in President Bush's Cabinet, was one of 14 speakers at the nondenominational services.
Representing Bush, Mineta read a letter of condolences from the president to Mink's husband, John.
"We know what a difficult time this is for you and we extend our heartfelt sympathy," Bush said. "Patsy was a dedicated public servant who represented Hawaii and our country with honor and dignity. Our nation is grateful for her record of service."
U.S. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mos., led the congressional delegation, which flew in during the night and were leaving before Mink's burial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater. She gained the right to be buried there because her husband is a veteran.
"She was an unabashed, unapologetic, proud, liberal Democrat," Gephardt said, calling her "an amazing woman."
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, remembered Mink as one who spoke out on issues of abuse and abandonment of children and wives, discrimination, hatred or prejudice.
Gov. Ben Cayetano, the nation's first governor of Filipino ancestry, said Mink "helped open the door of opportunity and equal treatment not only for women but for all minorities and disadvantaged as well."