Friday, April 9, 2010

In Memory of Eric Maehara

Eric Maehara (1946 - 2010) and Rep. Jerry Chang
Eric Maehara, an attorney with the Legislative Reference Bureau, passed away last Thursday, April 1, 2010, after a battle with cancer. Rep. Jerry Chang, his long-time friend, presented a eulogy for Eric at a memorial service on Thursday, April 8, 2010, and submitted it for the House blog:
Eric Maehara was a very, very special man. I know you are all here because he has touched your life in a way that very few people have. I am honored that he was my best friend—my brother.

Eric spoke highly of his father with much appreciation for how he worked hard and long for the family as at one point, there were 3 kids in college with 3 college tuitions to pay. After law school Eric followed his father's interest in politics. He worked for the Senate Majority Office for Senate President, John Ushijima, drafting bills and building relationships with policy makers and staffers who would eventually work their way up to positions of influence.

He eventually opened up his own firm; and Jon Okudara remembers that his first office was very small, furnished with fold-out chairs and a table. Jon helped Eric celebrate his office opening with Carol Kimura and Wilma Nakashima—they had 4 plastic cups, a bottle of Stoley, and a bag of ice. That was the humble beginnings of Eric T. Maehara, Attorney-at-Law.

He would soon become a founding partner of one of the top legal firms at that time, Foley, Maehara, Nip and Chang. Eric was well-known as one of Hawaii's top land use attorneys with major clients on all major islands, as well as, on the mainland and Japan. He worked on the Makena Prince project for a number of years and he had a lot of Maui friends whom he kept close ties with over the years. Those who were special to him were the late Representative Bob Nakasone, the Sam Garcia Family, the Apanas, and Charlotte Orikasa.

I met Eric over 21 years ago when I was elected into office. He would occasionally ask his good buddies, Whitney Anderson and Calvin Say, to invite some of the House members for lunch at China House after Session. We had some great Chinese food—and true to fashion, some good refreshments.

We became close friends when I got into a motorcycle accident about 14 years ago. He was on a flight to Hilo for business and read about my accident in the paper. He postponed his meeting and came to see me in the hospital. He always likes to tell the story of walking into my hospital room, seeing me lying there with my injured foot up in the air, and I'm on the phone with a catalogue on my lap. After I hung up the phone, he asked me who I was talking to. And I tell him that I'm ordering parts for my bike…he couldn't believe that I was still going to ride again.

During Eric's other trips to Hilo and my recovery at home, he would bring me lunch and keep me company. That was Eric.

We really got along well and shared some great times. Although we both enjoyed sports and going out, we had some differences. He wasn't much of a music lover like me, but he loved singing a duet with me when he would sing Willie Nelson's part and I, Julio Iglesias, in "For All the Girls We Loved Before". He enjoyed reading. He had tons of books on his shelves—most were of historic war stories and strategies of warfare, as well as, politics.

I and others have told him he should run for office, but that was one thing he knew he didn't want to do. But he contributed so much to our Senators and Representatives because he was a master in drafting bills and policy.

Yes, Eric was quite the man—yet, humble throughout his life. He derived a lot of pleasure from simple things in life and most especially, his family.
His children were his life. They said their dad would do anything for them—at the drop of a hat, he would be there for them. Whether he was with Tasha in Australia, Elizabeth in New York, or Char and Makena in Florida. It didn't matter—he would be there for any medical problems, graduations, or to watch Makena during his football games. He was proud of Makena -- how he is growing up to be a nice young man, and glad that he found a sport that he loved playing.

Makena wanted me to say that his dad was helpful, proud and stubborn. He did not expect or accept anything in return.
Yes, Eric was a generous man. I lived with him during the Session, and he would not accept any help in the rent. He even gave his car to Ted Baker so he could teach his son to drive a stick-shift, and of course, to impress the girls.

We had fun trips together to Japan and Seattle. He often talked about taking Makena and my son, Jay Boy, to San Francisco for a 49ers game. He also wanted to go to Japan one more time. He just loved Japan and its food and culture. All of the artwork in his apartment had a "Japan" theme.
On his 60th birthday, his children planned a surprise party for him at Aku Bone. That was the happiest I have ever seen him. To be surprised by all of his children and friends—it meant so much to him.

I was with Eric the night he was having trouble swallowing, and felt something was wrong—which led to his diagnosis of cancer of the esophagus. It was quite an emotional struggle for him; and I know his main concern was for his children and how they would have to deal with this. To the end, his main concern was for his children, especially for his youngest, Makena.

During this difficult time, he mentioned that his sister, Lois and her husband, Gary, as well as, Lisa Santos, were guardian angels for helping and always being there for him. They made sure he had food, fruits, and healthy drinks. He mentioned that the only way he could thank them was if I could bring back Lychee from Hilo because he knew Gary loved Lychee. He gave his precious "girl friend, Aka" to Lisa to take care of because he knew she would take good care of her.

Eric would want me to thank some very special people who helped him during his most difficult times. They are Speaker Calvin Say, his supervisors, Ken Takayama and Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi, and the entire staff at LRB.

I believe it was fate that Eric got to spend the last 7 years of his life working at the Legislative Reference Bureau because it gave us an opportunity to spend more time with him--going to lunch and hanging out after work. These years gave the LRB staff an opportunity to get to know and appreciate this special man.

He would also want to thank all of you for being a part of his life. Even during the last stages of his illness, he "toughed it out," being more concerned about the people he loved than any discomfort he was feeling.

He will be missed -- and while it's hard right now, one day we'll cease to remember Eric with tears and instead, remember him with smiles. As for me, he will forever be a part of my heart and soul, and today I say Aloha (farewell) to a wonderful father and friend.

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