Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii died earlier this week. He was aged 88, and was planning to run for a tenth Senate term in 2016, when he would have been 92.
In NZ politics, there is a general feeling that your peak political years are the 40s and 50s. Once you make 60, the timer has started and in your 70s you become (in my view) almost unelectable. However in the US it is very different, with many people being elected to office in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s.
Inouye had been the President pro tempore of the Senate since 2010. That made him third in line for the presidency after the VP and Speaker of the House. In reality he would never have become President (except in a Tom Clancy novel) as no Speaker has even become President, but it is a weakness in the US succession laws to have the President pro tem in the line of succession considering the position is always held by the longest serving Senator of the majority party.
Inouye has represented Hawaii in Washington for as long as it has been a state. They became a state in 1959 and he was in the House of Reps from 1959 to 1963 and a Senator since then.
He was a Japanese-American and served in WWII, once the ban on serving was lifted. Like many in Congress, he was seriously wounded and lost his right arm. War heroes do well in elections.
All in all an extraordinary life of service, especially representing the state of Hawaii for its entire existence.