In remembrance of former state Rep. Helene Eleanor Hale, Gov. Neil Abercrombie has ordered that all national and Hawaii flags at state offices and agencies as well as the Hawaii National Guard are to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, the day of her memorial services on Hawaii Island.
Hale was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2000, serving for three terms. As chairwoman of the House Committee on International Affairs, she championed a more proactive global role for Hawaii. Hale was a key advocate of House resolutions in 2003 that expressed reservations about going to war in Iraq without United Nations backing and invoked the aloha spirit in urging negotiations.
Born in Minnesota, Hale worked as a teacher before moving to Hawaii Island in 1947, continuing as an educator for a time at Konawaena Intermediate School. She went on to become the first African-American elected to office in Hawaii and first woman to hold an executive position in local government since Queen Liliuokalani. Hale was elected to Hawaii County’s Board of Supervisors in 1954 and chairman and chief executive officer (the equivalent of mayor) in 1962, helped to establish the Merrie Monarch Festival, and served on the Hawaii County Council from 1980 to 1984 and 1988 to 1994. Her business interests included a real estate agency, bookstore and coffee farm.
Hale died on Feb. 1, 2013, in Hilo at the age of 94.
“Helene Hale was a trailblazer who clearly cherished her adopted home of Hawaii,”Gov. Abercrombie said. “She will be remembered as a central figure in Hawaii’s transition from territory to statehood, as well as a strong advocate for Hawaii’s senior citizens, improved mental healthcare and a global role for our state. She was a remarkable role model for women and all citizens of Hawaii.”