On behalf of the entire UH Hilo community, I extend my deepest condolences to Billy Kenoi’s ‘ohana, colleagues, and friends. Our island is mourning the loss of an exemplar of community servant leadership, and our university mourns the passing of a friend and supporter.
Billy Kenoi spent three semesters at Hawai‘i Community College and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo from 1989-1990 before receiving his bachelor of arts in political science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He went on to get his law degree from UH Mānoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law. He later served as a deputy defender in the District, Family and Felony Trial Division and went on to successfully serve as an executive assistant to then-Mayor Harry Kim from 2001 to 2007. A year later he was elected mayor of the County of Hawai‘i at the age of 39.
Mayor Billy Kenoi gave an inspirational speech about the value of kindness, compassion and aloha in all pursuits at our 2010 Spring Commencement. He was invited to UH Hilo as a guest speaker on various occasions, and our students always found him inspiring. He addressed the College of Pharmacy Class of 2016 at their White Coat Ceremony stating: “Never ever doubt yourself, you got here already. All you got to do is keep doing what you did to get you here in the first place. You already know how to succeed. That’s why you are here.”
Those of us who had the opportunity to work with Billy came to know him as a valued member of our ‘ohana who was held in high regard and will be missed.
Billy Kenoi is survived by his wife, Takako, and their three children. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult period. Memorial services are pending.
Bonnie D. Irwin