(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Daniel Inouye has died. The 88 year-old Democrat has been in office since Hawaii became a state in 1959. He was the longest serving sitting U.S. Senator and the second-longest serving senator in American history.
Inouye’s office confirmed the senator’s passing to ABC News. His wife Irene and his son Ken were at his side.
On Capitol Hill he rose to become Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls the purse strings for the nation and is widely considered one of the most powerful positions in government.
A decorated war hero, in 2000 Inouye was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in Europe in World War II. He was a champion for veterans and veterans rights.
The Senator had been sick for some time, hospitalized since early December and was fighting respiratory complications as doctors worked to stabilize his supplemental oxygen requirements.
The Senator’s office explained then that in the late 1960’s, Senator Inouye was misdiagnosed with lung cancer and had a sizable portion of his left lung removed. After living with this his whole life, his office says about nine months ago his doctors recommended he begin using an oxygen supplement.
In November the Senator was taken to Walter Reed after a fall in his apartment and was treated for a minor cut to the back of his head. Also that month Inouye could be seen using oxygen on the floor of the Senate and has been spotted also using a wheelchair at times.
According to a statement from his office, when asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, the senator very simply replied, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.”
His last word was, “Aloha,” his office said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jeremy Diamond, CNN
Jeanne Sahadi, CNN
Brian Stelter, CNN