Irene Hirano Inouye, the widow of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, died April 7 after an extended illness, according to the U.S.-Japan Council.

Hirano Inouye, born in 1948, was the president of the educational organization, founded in 2008, and was also president and founding CEO of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles for 20 years.

Inouye and the longtime senator were wed in 2008. He died on Dec. 17, 2012.

U.S.-Japan Council board Chairwoman Phyllis Campbell wrote in a letter the group’s members, “I know we are all devastated by this news. Irene was a singular figure in U.S.-Japan relations, respected by leaders on both sides of the Pacific as she carried out the mission of USJC. Since the founding of the Council, she infused the organization with her wisdom and entrepreneurial spirit, kept her pulse on every aspect of USJC while keeping her eye on the strategic vision, and managed to approach every challenge with fearlessness and determination.”

Hirano Inouye had announced in January that she planned to retire from her post later this year, the council said.

She also had served as chairwoman and trustee of the Ford and Kresge foundations, and chairwoman of the Smithsonian Institution Asian Pacific American Center, among many other positions.

She is survived by her daughter, Jennifer; stepson, Ken Inouye; sister, Patti Yasutake; and brother-in-law, Michael Uno, according to the Pacific Citizen newspaper.

The U.S.-Japan Council said plans for a memorial service will be made after the current global COVID-19 crisis has ended.

Originally published in the StarAdvertiser

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