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Traditional leader, former senator, retired associate judge and businessman, Mailo Tony Atonio passed away suddenly at the age of 74, about an hour after a phone conference on ‘Skype’ with his children, according to his daughter, Virginia Mailo-Filiga.

She says her father suffered from health complications and was rushed to the hospital where he died Tuesday evening at the hospital.

During a Samoa News interview yesterday at the family’s home in Fagatogo, Mailo-Filiga said her father was a passionate business man and a dedicated member of the Catholic Parish in Fagatogo. Mailo was also the Chairman of the Diocesan Counsel for Samoa-Pago Pago.

He started his education with Poyer School followed by Marist Brothers and then St. Joseph College in Samoa. He also attended Marist Brothers Catholic School College in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The prominent matai received a Bachelors Degree in Liberal Arts and Masters in Education from the University of Portland, in the 60’s.

Mailo started his service with the government when he was a teacher at Samoana High School; later became the principal of Leone High School, and was selected by the Department of Education to oversee the Scholarship board.

Mailo-Filiga  said her entire family migrated to the United States where her father taught at the high school district of Seattle for a while.

She added that when they moved to Hawaii her father obtained a 65-acre taro plantation in Waialua where he supplied Samoan taro to supermarkets in the Aloha State. Her father had several businesses and among them, were several stores, rental homes and a nightclub in Fagatogo.

In the 1980’s Mailo was the High Court Administrator and later an Associate Judge in the 90’s. He became senator representing Fagatogo from 2004 to 2008, according to his daughter.

During his tenure at the Senate, he was very passionate about the protection of Samoan land and titles, which he argued are the main treasures of our Samoan culture.

Mailo also used to own a farm plantation in Iliili behind the golf course, which is now a residential area. He was also the author of the famous “Palefuiono” book about Samoan culture, his daughter said.

Mailo is survived by his wife, Fa’ava Matalena Mailo; seven children; 20 grandchildren; and one-great grandchild. Mailo is expected to be laid to rest on Feb. 11 but an official announcement from the family is pending.