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Those we lost in 2012

American Samoa bid farewell to a Toa o Samoa, traditional leaders and many dear friends and family in 2012, which also saw the passing of  U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, a long time friend of American Samoa and holder of the Samoan chiefly title “Fofoga-o-Samoa.”

The holiday season is always a difficult time for families whose members are serving in the U.S. military and this year, American Samoa lost one of its own in the Afghanistan conflict.

U.S. Army Spc. Tofiga J. Tautolo, 23, died May 27 in Bati Kot, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, “of wounds sustained when his vehicle was attacked with an enemy improvised explosive device”, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

A 2006 graduate of Manu’a High School, Tautolo—who was born in American Samoa— had his home of record at Wilmington, Calif. He was  assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.

There were no casualties reported for our Toa o Samoa in Iraq, as the end of 2011 was the official withdrawn of U.S. troops from that country, although there is still a U.S. military presence there.

At the beginning of 2012, the Fono mourned the passing of former Sen. Mailo T. Atonio, who died in the middle of January at the age of 74.  At the end of January, the Fono suffered yet another loss with the passing of sitting Senator Seui Laau Mautonu Sr. at the age of 69.

In March, the territory joined the rest of the Pacific region in mourning the death of Tonga’s King George Tupou V, who died at the age of 63 in Hong Kong during a stopover, enroute to Nukualofa.  American Samoa sent a delegation to the king’s funeral service.

In July, American Samoa paid respect to the late Rev. Uinifareti Rapi Sotoa, who designed the American Samoa flag. Sotoa was 74 years old at the time of his death. He was a 19-year old student at the time he designed the flag, which was approved by the Fono on Apr. 24, 1960.

The following month, in the latter part of August, retired police commander, 72-year old Tufue Malele Forsythe, died after being struck by an aiga bus in Nu’uuli.  He was hit by the bus while in a crosswalk in front of CBT.

From the world of golf, Christine Michelle Drabble-McCormack lost her battle with cancer and passed away July 9 at the  Mayo Clinic Sherman Hospice in Phoenix, Arizona. She died at the age of 41. Christine was well known in the territory for her achievements in golf, culminating with her individual gold medal performance while representing American Samoa in the 2007 South Pacific Games.

From off island sports, came the shocking death of former NFL pro football star and a Samoan icon, Junior Seau, who was found shot to death at his home in Oceanside, Calif., in May.  Police said the 43 year old Seau appeared to have committed suicide, which was confirmed a few months later by a coroner’s report.

Other noticeable deaths reported by Samoa News this year:

• Mrs. Dorothy Ah Ching Swann Haleck passed away earlier this month in St. George, Utah at the age of 89 .

• Mrs. Jane Tu’uinatu Uhrle - the first Samoan female Post Master for American Samoa -  passed away this month at the age of 86 in Daly City, California.

• Local businessman and owner of Pacific International Engineering (PIE) Ltd., Warren Fisher passed away in July at LBJ Medical Center.

•  Afonotele Petelo Lafaele, who served as Solid Waste Division manager for ASPA passed away in August at LBJ Medical Center.

• Rev. Elder Masalosalo Sopoaga, one of the longest serving Reverends of the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa passed way in June at the age of 73 at LBJ Medical Center.

Samoa News also provided news coverage - with a local angle - on some major deaths off island including the shocking news about two separate shootings on the mainland. The first one was in July when a gunman opened fire inside a crowded theater in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people including a 9-year old girl. 

Former local Assistant Attorney General Lisa Teesch-Maguire was then appointed by judicial officials in Colorado to enforce the rights of victims, and American Samoa joined the nation in lowering flags to pay tribute to those victims.

The second shooting and perhaps the most shocking—because 20 of the 26 victims were children between the ages of 6 and seven—occurred two weeks ago in Newtown Connecticut. American Samoa also lowered flags to remember the victims and Gov. Togiola Tulafono called the shooting a “senseless acts of violence”.

A day before the shooting in Newtown, the Samoan archipelago was hit by Cyclone Evan, and neighboring Samoa got the brunt of the storm killing five people. Earlier this week the Samoa government said in a statement that 11 people are  still missing - nine lost at sea and two on land. The nine lost at sea are fishermen, who went out in two fishing vessels before the storm hit.

Samoa News once again expresses our sincere condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones this year.