Trailblazing Asian American legislator Patsy Young dies at age 92

Patsy Young, a trailblazing Asian-American woman who served in both the state House and Senate between 1971 and 1988, died April 3 at age 92.

Young was the first woman to serve in a leadership position in the state Senate as vice president; the first Asian American woman appointed to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents; the first woman on the Public Utilities Commission; and one of the founders of the first Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus, according to biographical information provided by the Hawaii United Okinawan Association.

She was also particularly proud of awarding over $1 million in scholarships to more than 700 students during her time as the executive director of the McKinley High School Foundation.

Young was born in Waihee, Maui, on Oct. 29, 1929.

She grew up in a two-bedroom home with two older sisters, an older brother and five younger brothers, whom she helped raise.

Her parents had immigrated from Okinawa. As a child, Young recalled learning the importance of yuimaru, an Okinawan word that meant working together in the spirit of cooperation to create a strong and stable family.

Young and her family moved to Honolulu in 1941. Her parents opened a saimin stand in Kalihi called Elizabeth’s Sandwich Shop, where Young met her future husband, Honolulu Fire Capt. Francis Young. They married in 1950 and had three children, Patrick, Francine and Greg.

Francis Young died at age 46, and Young raised their children as a single mother while continuing her career in public service.

She began her legislative career in the House in 1971 and moved to the state Senate in 1974 as the Senate Majority Policy Leader. She was also chairwoman of committees such as Legislative Management, Public Utilities, Housing and Urban Development and Hawaiian Homelands and Hawaiian Programs.

During her time in the Legislature, Young helped pass a law that enabled individuals with a Hawaiian blood quantum of 25% to inherit Hawaiian Homelands leases from certain closely related relatives. She also played instrumental roles in establishing the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which would produce affordable housing; the Hula Mae mortgage loan program for first-time homebuyers; and more.

Young retired from the Public Utilities Commission in 1994 and continued her work in community service on the Honolulu Fire Commission, as director of the Waipahu Cultural Garden Park and as the first executive director of the McKinley High School Foundation.

Throughout her various careers, Young continued embodying the spirit of Yuimaru. De Ella Colleagues remember her as kind and caring, yet strategic and tenacious in the causes she advocated for. She was recognized as someone who always “got the job done,” according to the Hawaii United Okinawan Association.

She also remained connected to her Okinawan background through her membership in HUOA clubs.

In retirement, Young enjoyed reading, writing poetry and spending time with her grandchildren, family and friends.

Family members did not immediately respond to requests for comments. Neither Young’s church nor the HUOA had information on survivors or service information.

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