HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii state Sen. Gilbert Kahele, who represented parts of the Big Island, has died.  He was 73.
    
Senate Majority Spokeswoman Jill Kuramoto said Tuesday that the Senate was informed of Kahale's passing by his family.
    
The Democrat was appointed to the state Senate in 2011 by former Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Kahele had been serving as chairman of the Tourism and International Affairs Committee.
    
Kahele grew up in the fishing village of Milolii on Hawaii's Big Island and graduated from Hilo High School. His online biography says he served in the U.S. Marines and then worked for the Hawaii Department of Defense for more than three decades.
    
Kahele had served as chairman of the Hawaii County Police Commission. He also had served as vice chairman of the Democratic Party for East Hawaii.

Gov. David Ige issued the following statement:

It is with much sadness that I learned of Senator Kahele’s passing. He was a dedicated public servant who spent the last few years working for the good of his beloved community at the Hawai‘i State Legislature. He was a respected and influential leader both in the legislature and in his hometown community of Hilo. My deepest condolences to his ‘ohana, friends and supporters during this difficult time.

Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui released the following statement:

I am deeply saddened to learn today of the passing of my dear friend, Senator Gilbert Kahele.  Gil was a warm and caring man with the highest principles and values, who had the unique ability to always make you feel welcomed and at ease.  I was honored to have served as his colleague in the Senate and to have continued our friendship thereafter.  I will miss his kindness, positive outlook, and ability to make me laugh.   

I send my thoughts and prayers to Gil’s ohana and friends.  He was a committed and loving husband, father and grandfather, who spoke often of his loved ones with great joy and pride.  The people of Hawaii were privileged that a man of his experience and dedication devoted his life to public service.  His smile and infectious laugh will continue to live on in our hearts and minds forever.

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi issued the following statement:

The Hilo community and the State of Hawai'i today has lost a great Senator, a gentleman, and passionate advocate who cared deeply about public service and the people he represented. I am honored to have served with him and I know his fellow colleagues in the Senate feel the same. 

Senator Kahele's family thanks the public for their words of support and aloha and respectfully asks for privacy at this difficult time.

Senator Kahele’s staff will be in the office to handle the concerns and issues of the district. His Tourism and International Affairs committee will be handled by the Vice Chair, Sen. J. Kalani English.

I send heartfelt condolences to the Kahele family as we mourn the loss of this remarkable man. 

House Speaker Joe Souki released the following statement:

It is with great sadness that we, in the House, learned about State Senator Gil Kahele.  His contributions as a native Hawaiian, a Big Island resident and public servant to the entire state will be greatly missed. We mourn his passing and extend our thoughts and prayers to his family.

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz issued the following statement:

Gil Kahele was one of the kindest, most decent, most caring public servants that I have ever known.  His heart for the people of his community made him an effective leader, community organizer, and Senator.  He was so kind to me and to everyone whom he touched.  This is a sad day and he will be missed.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono released the following statement:

Gil Kahele served Hawaii and our country with distinction for more than 50 years, first in the U.S. Marine Corps, then as a community advocate and in elected office. I will remember Gil for his kindness and tireless work on behalf of the people of Hawaii Island and our state. Gil’s steadfast advocacy on behalf of individuals and families ensured that the resources were available to address community needs for Tropical Storm Iselle and the Puna lava flow. My thoughts and prayers are with Gil’s wife Linda and the entire Kahele ohana.

Congressman Mark Takai released the following statement:

I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of my dear friend and colleague, Senator Gil Kahele.  Gil was a career-long public servant who was dedicated to bettering the lives of his constituents on the Big Island.  I am truly blessed to have served alongside him in the Hawaii State Legislature.  My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family during this difficult time.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released the following statement: 

Today we lost a dedicated servant of the people. Senator Gil Kahele was born in Milolii in South Kona, graduated from Hilo High School, and selflessly served our country as a U.S. Marine.  He went on to work for 33 years for the Department of Defense, finishing his service at Pohakuloa Training Area.  Five years ago, he answered the governor's call to serve the people of Hawai?i Island by representing them in the State Senate.  He has always been known as a strong advocate for the people of Hawai?i Island, serving as their voice at the Hawai?i State Capitol, especially through times of challenge and hardship.  I saw him recently in Washington, DC, where as always, he was ready with a smile, a hug, warm aloha, and a picture to post on his Facebook page.  My heart is with the Kahele ?ohana, and all of Hawai'i Island.  Gil, you are missed.