Personal note from Robert Sato, Legislative Staff to Senator Harimoto
To most, Breene Harimoto was known for his years of public service. He was a member of the Board of Education, a Honolulu City Councilmember, and a State Senator. But his history of civic participation and community involvement extends way beyond those elected offices. He wasn’t driven by political aspirations; he just wanted to help his community and contribute as much as he could. Simply put, Breene was born to serve.
Breene discovered an interest in civic engagement back when he was on the Student Government at Waipahu High School and continued through his college years as a Senator with the Associated Students of the University of Hawai’i. His desire to improve the educational conditions for his fellow students propelled Breene to spend a lifetime seeking to enhance the quality of life for those around him.
A lifelong resident of Pearl City, Breene constantly fought to improve the health and welfare of his community. Even while engaged with his career as an information technology professional, he still made it a point to be present with his family. He was a deeply involved father to his three sons, participating in their school activities and functions as a parent volunteer. He was also a member of various organizations including his homeowner’s association, the Pearl City Community Association, the Pearl City Neighborhood Board, the Lion’s Club, and the Friends of the Pearl City Library, to name a few. Breene was a fixture in Pearl City; spending his free time participating in and coordinating community improvement projects such as neighborhood and park cleanups and events including the annual Family Fun Fair and Halloween Bash that brought neighbors together in fellowship.
Although Breene was soft-spoken by nature, he was outspoken when it came to advocating for his beloved Pearl City community, and led the charge in creating the Pearl City Foundation and Momilani Community Center, to provide a gathering place in the community offering social, educational, and recreational opportunities for all, from youth to seniors. As Executive Director of the community center he was “the guy in the blue shirt” often seen mowing the lawn and cleaning up after functions. He didn’t just represent the community; he saw himself as part of the community.
Breene was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, after his first legislative session.
To combat the disease, he underwent the extremely invasive and risky Whipple procedure to remove various parts of his digestive system. As a testament to his faith and strength of will, he powered through his second legislative session as Chair of the Senate Committee on Housing, even while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It was tremendous news when Breene learned he went into remission in 2017. But, just a year later, in 2018, the cancer returned, this time in his lungs. With a terminal prognosis, he was told that he would need to undergo bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments for the rest of his life. Throughout it all, with his unwavering faith and hopes of a miracle, Breene always had a positive attitude, offering a smile and cheery hello in the hallways of the Capitol and out in the community.
Sadly, after a courageous five-year battle, Breene passed away on June 18, 2020, at the age of 66.
He will be missed.
Senator Harimoto was a member of the Board of Education for eight years and served two terms as its chairman. He also served on the …