AMERICAN SAMOA'S FIRST WOMAN POST MASTER, JANE UHRLE PASSES AWAY
American Samoa’s first woman to hold the title of Post Master, Jane Tu’uinatu Uhrle, “passed away quietly” on Dec. 13 at her home in Daly City, Calif., “following a brief illness,” according to information provided by her son Dr. Fred Uhrle Jr.
He said his mother, who was 86, was recently laid to rest with her late husband at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, Calif.
Mrs. Uhrle was the third of seven children born to Fuiavailili Frank W. Pritchard of Leone and Sau Falalafo Tapusalaia of Siumu, Samoa. She was born Feb. 1, 1926 in Leone.
Mrs. Uhrle was hired by the U.S. Postal Service in March 1950 and served under Post Masters Faivae Edward Hunkin and A. P. Lutali before she was appointed by then President Lyndon B Johnson to become Postmaster of American Samoa, becoming the first Samoan woman to the position, held previously only by men with US Citizenship.
“She enjoyed her work tremendously and always looked at it as a service to the people of American Samoa, performing it honestly and to the best of her abilities,” said Dr. Uhrle.
One of the many highlights of her career with the U.S. Postal Service happened when she was selected to be part of the US delegation to the Universal Postal Congress in Tokyo, Japan, where she represented the U.S. Territories. There were 12 delegates for the US from Washington DC, including then Postmaster General Blount. She was the only woman. Although initially intimidated her confidence shown and she was proud to be a woman representative from Samoa. She retired after 42 years of service, moving to California to be with her grand children.
In addition to her career with the Post Office, Mrs. Uhrle was active in establishing the local YMCA and the Beautification Programs, serving alongside High Chiefs Fuimaono Asuemu, Leiato, Faivae Apelu and Mageo Meauta. She also served on the Board of Education and the Arts Council Board.
At a young age, she was sent by her parents to to Samoa to live with her uncle, Tualaulelei Mauri as it was her mother's wishes that she live with her Samoan family and learn the Samoan ways. She would initially enroll at the Savalalo Sisters school then later at Leififi School. She returned to Leone after her mother died unexpectedly to complete her education at St. Theresa's Catholic school and at the LMS Faifeau's school in Leone. In January 1941 at the age of 15, her father sent her to Auckland, New Zealand to attend St. Cuthbert's Presbyterian Ladies College.
In 1946 she returned home to Samoa and was employed briefly by Ships Service and Public Works department. She moved to San Francisco, California for a few years and found work at the Veterans Administration Regional Office but longed to return to Samoa and family. She married Fred Uhrle Sr at the Leone LMS church October 14, 1950. They raised four children- Jack, Fred Jr, Nellie and Robert. Jane however raised many other children, including cousins and distant relatives who would call her "mom" and saw her as such.
As a product of the Catholic school system, she never forgot what the nuns had given her. She was active in the alumni association and was president of the St. Theresa’s Old Girls Association when the late Cardinal Pio Taofinu’u made known his wishes to establish Catholic High Schools in American Samoa. She, a Protestant, was elected treasurer for the fund raising committee that spearheaded the effort leading to the construction of Fa’asao High School and the renovation of St. Theresa’s Elementary school.
Despite all her activities, her family and her church were the most important to her. She loved to garden and would use the plants and flowers to decorate the Leone church every Saturday evening along with Ve'a Augafa.
“She spent much of her life caring for others- immediate and distant relatives as well as strangers. She had a soft spot particularly for those on missions regardless of their religion, or on island to serve the community, such as teachers and physicians. She lived her life by the principle that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and that you always did so with love,” said Dr. Uhrle.
Samoa News expresses our deepest condolences to the grieving family.