HONOLULU (AP) — Irene Hirano Inouye, the widow of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii and the founding CEO of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, has died. She was 71.

Hirano Inouye had most recently served as president of the U.S.-Japan Council, which aims to develop and connect leaders to strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship.

The council said Hirano Inouye died in Los Angeles on Tuesday after an extended illness. The organization didn’t disclose the nature of her illness.

Hirano Inouye married Hawaii’s longest serving U.S. senator in 2008 when he was 83 and she was 59. She was divorced, and he had been widowed since his wife of nearly 60 years died two years earlier.

They were married until the senator died in office in 2012.

Hirano Inouye spent 20 years at the helm of the Japanese American National Museum, the largest museum in the United States dedicated to sharing the experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry.

A 2008 article by the Honolulu Advertiser said she took the institution from “debt-ridden hope to solvent reality” as she led fundraising campaigns that yielded $65 million and 65,000 members. Under her leadership, the museum built an endowment and executed a multimillion-dollar expansion.


At the U.S.-Japan Council, which she led since 2008, Hirano Inouye built the TOMODACHI Initiative to invest in the next generation of young Japanese and American leaders and established a $10 million endowment to support scholarships for students to study abroad.

She announced her decision to retire from the U.S.-Japan Council earlier this year.

Council spokeswoman Alison Aadland said Hirano Inouye’s family prefers not to be identified at this time.