Friends and colleagues remembered Rep. Mark Takai as a “happy warrior” during a memorial service for the late Hawaii Democrat Wednesday inside a packed Statuary Hall.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan recalled Takai’s enthusiastic effort to allow “Aloha wear” on the House floor on Fridays — a dress code Takai encouraged in his personal office. In February, he hand delivered a Hawaiian shirt to the then-newly elected House speaker.
The Wisconsin Republican joked that he briefly considered Takai’s request but would have insisted that his home state delegation be able to don cheese heads.
A sentimental Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. recalled Takai offering his condolences on the death his son, Beau Biden, who had brain cancer. Biden said Takai had just come from his own treatment that day to attend a Democratic retreat in Baltimore.
“He said ‘I don’t want my kids to worry about me. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me,’” Biden said. “His dignity was palpable.”
Takai, 49, died of pancreatic cancer in July, shortly after he announced he would not seek re-election because the disease had spread.
He was first elected to the House in 2014, having previously served 20 years in the Hawaii state House, where he was vice speaker from 2005 to 2006.
Takai was a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii National Guard and a veteran of the Iraq War. In Congress, he served on the Armed Services and Small Business committees.
The memorial service was packed with fellow members of Congress, Takai’s wife, two children and parents.
Fellow Hawaii Democrat Sen. Brian Schatz called the freshman congressman a “truly a happy warrior.”
“Mark was a soldier in every sense of the word,” Schatz said.