Senate passes resolution conveying sympathy to family of the late David Peter Vargas
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Senate on Wednesday passed in final reading the House concurrent resolution, which “conveys the deepest condolences of the American Samoa Legislature and the people of America Samoa to Mrs. Michaelle Claire Murphy Vargas, children and the bereaved Vargas family, on the recent passing of Mr. David Peter Vargas and pays tribute to his dedicated service to the American Samoa Government and the people of American Samoa.”
The concurrent resolution states that, “David Peter Vargas was born on August 27, 1947 in French Camp, California to parents Pedro Gonzales Vargas of Hispanic descent and Jeanette Osborne.
It further states that, “from an early age, Vargas made education an integral part of his success in life. He graduated from Tulare Western High School in 1965 and immediately enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
“Within three years, David rose in the ranks to an E-5 Sergeant. By then, David was ready to exit the military and pursue a college degree. He enrolled at the California State University in Davis, California.
“After two years, he transferred to San Francisco State University, earning a Bachelors degree in Life Science in 1975. David then moved to San Diego to attend the University of San Diego, School of Law.
“Within three years, David had earned his Juris Doctor degree and became a licensed attorney. He was honored with a prestigious award in Criminal Justice and was named in Who’s Who among students in American Universities & Colleges.
“Counsel Vargas chose to remain in San Diego as an associate and eventual partner at the Law Firm of Drake, Gerstel, Shearer and Bregante for the next 13 years. He was a fierce attorney and argued both civil and criminal cases for the firm.
“He finally left the firm to join another attorney, Dan Martinez in Atherton, California in 1991. Their practice flourished when Vargas joined, as he was fluent in the Spanish language.
However, “in 1995, Counsel Vargas and his wife Michaelle agreed to move to American Samoa for a fresh start for a few years. He accepted the position as Assistant Public Defender.
Within two years, he left the American Samoa Government for private practice with the law office of Marshall Ashley. Another two years later, he joined the Rose Joneson Law Firm as a full partner for the next 18 years. The firm was renamed Rose Joneson Vargas.
“In 2017, Counsel Vargas established his own law office and was immediately asked to serve as the independent prosecutor for the government and territory.
“In early September 2022, Governor Lemanu requested Counsel Vargas assistance with the Public Defender's office. He was unanimously confirmed by the entire Legislature, undertaking the entire workload of the Public Defender's Office.
“His decision to close his law practice in response to Governor Lemanu's call for help with the Public Defender Office was highly regarded as notable and commendable by the legal and professional community.
“Counsel Vargas was an incredibly talented and dedicated attorney. He loved practicing law. Every client he had was his most important client and he gave his full effort to each and every one whether it was a traffic matter, a felony, or complicated civil or maritime matters.
“He was comfortable in the courtroom and was always professionally courteous. Counsel Vargas is remembered by his legal peers as ethical and honest as the days are long.
“Outside of the legal realm, Counsel Vargas was the President and Head Coach of the American Samoa Judo Association. He headed the American Samoa team to the South Pacific Mini Games in 1997 as the Chef de Mission.
“He was an active Executive Board member of the American Samoa National Olympic Committee for several years, a Masonic Lodge member, and Shriner's Club of Pago Pago member, sharing his passion for American Samoa’s sick children to receive off-island healthcare services.
“Counsel Vargas served on the Board of Directors for the Catholic Social Services. He and his family were faithful members of the International Community of the Fatuaiga Holy Family Parish, and he was the legal counsel to Bishop Quinn and the Hope House.
“Counsel Vargas enjoyed fishing and hiking the various trails around the island. He was an avid reader. He was fluent in the Spanish language as well. He was known for his compassion and would care for his sick and bedridden friends for years. He would visit them regularly and in one case arranged for the VA to agree to take medical care and treatment of a friend in Hawaii.
“What was a temporary get-away to the islands for Counsel Vargas and Michaelle became a permanent home for 28 years. Whether it was representing the interests of American Samoans, teaching judo, engaging in community services, or helping those in need, Vargas completed it all. Literally, until his final breath, Vargas was serving the people of American Samoa.
“Counsel Vargas passed away peacefully on September 12, 2023 at his home in Olovalu, Malaeloa. He is survived by his wife Michaelle, four children Christina, David, Michael and Falaniko, and two grandchildren, James and Colin. It must be said that Counsel Vargas lived like the words to his favorite song by the Highway Men, "the road goes on forever, and the party never ends."
This House Concurrent Resolution will be presented officially by the Speaker of the House Representatives, the Honorable Savali Talavou Ale or his authorized representative to Mrs. Michaelle C.M. Vargas at an appropriate ceremony.