Maui News

Former Hawai‘i Island Mayor “Billy” Kenoi Dies, Dignitaries Extend Condolences

January 26, 2021, 5:18 PM HST
* Updated January 27, 7:03 AM
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Hawaiʻi Island Mayor Billy Kenoi. File photo courtesy County of Maui Office of Council Services.

Former Hawaiʻi County Mayor William “Billy” P. Kenoi has died.

A post on the I Mua Billy Kenoi Facebook page, says the longtime community leader “passed away today at home with his family after his long battle with cancer.”

Governor David Ige was among the dignitaries who offered condolences saying: “Billy Kenoi was an energetic and inspirational leader who had a knack for bringing people together. His death is a huge loss for our community. Dawn and I express our deepest condolences to Billy’s family and loved ones.”

Gov. Ige will order flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Kenoi on the day of his memorial service. Arrangements are pending.

US Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele (HI-02) responded to the news with sadness saying, “It is with deep sadness that I grieve with the people of Hawaiʻi over the passing of my dear friend and mentor, Billy Kenoi. Throughout his life, and especially as a leader of the people, Billy always had the attitude that anything is possible. In what would become a viral commencement address to Hawaiʻi Pacific University graduates, Billy said, ʻthere is no such thing as no can … always can!’ 

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“He knew how to make anyone feel special, through his inspiring words he was able to touch the hearts of others, and in doing so, often created positive change in the community where needed,” said Rep. Kahele.

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Congressman Kahele continued saying, “With Billy, he would be the last to accept recognition, yet the first to give it to someone else. Billy showed us, by example, the importance of investing in our communities. His imprint and contributions are seen throughout the County of Hawaiʻi and will be felt for generations. “

“Maria and I extend our deepest sympathies to Billy’s wife Takako, his daughter Mahina, and his sons Justin and Liam. Billy leaves an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of the people of Hawai‘i, especially those lives he generously touched on Hawaiʻi Island. He will be greatly missed,” said Congressman Kahele.

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (District 8 – Kauaʻi and Niʻihau) also shared condolences saying:

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“I was saddened to learn about the passing of former Hawaiʻi Island Mayor Billy Kenoi. He was a dedicated public servant who deeply cared about the people of Hawaiʻi. Even in the midst of his own health challenges, Billy continued to inspire those around him through with his warm sense of humor and his gift of oratory.  

My heartfelt aloha goes out to his wife – Takako, his children – Liam, Justin and Mahina and the rest of the Kenoi ʻohana.” 

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino issued a statement saying:

“My wife Joycelyn and I are heartbroken to learn of the passing of our dear friend Billy Kenoi today. His death leaves a void that will never be filled. Anyone who experienced his intelligence and wit, whether expressed in pidgin, Hawaiian, or perfect English, received a priceless gift of island wisdom wrapped in local-style humor. 

“Mostly we will remember his great heart, his giving spirit and his service to the people of Hawai‘i County and the entire state of Hawai‘i. His optimism and confidence will live on through his favorite saying, ‘No such thing as no can. Always can. The only question is how can.’

“Our deepest condolences to his wife Takako, their ‘ohana and to everyone who was blessed to have known him.”

Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald issued the following statement:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Mayor Billy Kenoi. He had an enduring love for the people of Hawaii, especially those on his home island.  He was humble and down-to-earth, and spoke passionately about his journey to becoming a lawyer.

“Mayor Kenoi was a strong supporter of the construction of our Keahuolu Courthouse in Kona, which opened in late 2019. He understood that the west side of the island deserved a real courthouse for its people. We will be forever grateful to him for his support.

“On behalf of the Hawaii State Judiciary, I extend my sincere condolences to his wife and family.”

US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) released the following statement:

“Billy Kenoi was one of Hawai‘i’s most talented political leaders. His understanding of, and empathy for Hawai‘i and its people drove his meteoric rise and motivated his public service. His love for Hawai‘i Island, his intellect, and his heart will leave a mark in our collective consciousness and in Hawai‘i’s history. May his memory be a blessing.”

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