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Salote Starr Lutu Schuster, A Woman to Behold

Our beloved Salote was a woman driven by incredible passion, principles and values. She was an extraordinary woman whose colleagues highly respected because of her strong work ethics. She was a woman filled with so much pride and love for her family. She was our matriarch, our pillar of strength. She was a woman to behold.

Salote was born Fetuao Starr Lutu to her parents, High Chief Lutu Simaile of Fagatogo and Salote Tuipelehake Su’apaia of Salelavalu, Savaii. She was raised in the village of Fagatogo with her eighteen siblings. Fetuao’s schooling began at Poyer School in American Samoa. She later moved to Laie, Hawaii, where she attended Kahuku High School. Her teachers had a difficult time saying her name, so her Aunty Vendella told her to use “Starr”. Starr was an outgoing and energetic person, and because of that, she was voted Homecoming Queen by her high school senior class in 1960.

After high school, Starr returned home to American Samoa to begin work at the ASG Attorney General’s Office. In 1963, she moved to Hawaii to continue her education — enrolling in the Honolulu Business College before moving to Long Beach, California, where she attended the Long Beach Business College of Commerce. After completing her schooling in Long Beach, Starr relocated to San Francisco and began work at The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. In 1968, she returned to American Samoa to care for her father who was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Sadly, her father passed away that same year. 

While in American Samoa, she worked for the Department of Administrative Services and later moved to work for the Marine Railway. In 1975, Starr was selected for the position of Administrative Assistant to then Delegate at Large, A.P. Lutali.  She moved her family, which included her then husband, Peter Tiumalu Lagarejos of Fagatogo and their children to Washington, D.C. Starr became involved in many committees, eventually establishing a women’s group called The American Samoa Society of Washington, D.C. The society entered its very first Cherry Blossom Princess in the 1976 Cherry Blossom Festival. The society was also involved in the committee to Elect Jimmy Carter for President. This collaboration led to American Samoa’s participation in the Inauguration Parade of 1977. 

At the end of Lutali’s term as Delegate at Large, Starr and her family returned to American Samoa in 1979. Divorced, Starr married Su’a Carl Schuster of Fagatogo and Pago Pago in 1982, and moved to California once again. She briefly worked for the Office of Samoan Affairs in California, but in 1984 she decided to move her family back home to American Samoa and live permanently at Mauga O Ali’i, Utulei.

At home, she became the Assistant Territorial Registrar. After several years at the Territorial Registrar’s Office, the position of Registrar became vacant. Unfortunately, Starr was overlooked and the position was assigned to someone else. Feeling discriminated against, Starr went up against the Attorney General’s Office in 1994 for the discrimination in the appointment of the new Registrar.  After four years of fighting, the decision was overturned by the Personnel Advisory Board in 1997 and Starr became the first female Registrar of the Territorial Registrar’s Office.

Throughout her career, Starr was involved in many organizations. As a strong advocate for women’s rights, she along with other women founded the American Samoa National Women’s Council. She was later appointed by Governor Tauese Sunia to represent the women of American Samoa in the 7th and 8th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women at Noumea, New Caledonia. 

Starr and her husband were strong members of the American Samoa Republican Party.

As a strong and faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, she held many church callings.

Starr had great pride and love for her family that she showed through tautua, and later as the family matriarch. She was very knowledgeable of her genealogy — her father’s Lutu family and her mother’s Tuipelehake Su’apaia family. She met many relatives from both sides, but craved a deeper connection with her Tuipelehake side. The opportunity presented itself in 2001 when King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV and Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho of Tonga were official guests of the territory for the 2001 Flag Day celebrations. 

Starr reached out and invited the King and Queen to her home on Mauga o Ali’i in Utulei for a family gathering. It was there that the King asked Starr whether or not her mother Salote was still alive. He learned that her mother had passed just a year before in 2000 and was saddened because he had always wanted to meet Salote. It was during this gathering that the King explained his connection with his Samoan side of the family. His Majesty told of his mother, Her Royal Highness, Queen Salote, having two sons, Fatafehi and Alipate. He then went on to explain how Starr’s mother had been named so. Alipate is Starr’s great, great grandfather.

Before Su’apaia Kipeni Tuipelehake (Alipate’s grandson) and his wife Taotafa departed for Savai’i, Queen Salote named the unborn child Taotafa was carrying.  Her instructions were if the child was a boy, to name him Vilai after her brother, the prince, but if it was a girl, to name her Salote after herself.  As it turned out, the child was a girl and therefore, was named Salote, who was Starr’s mother. The King added that the name Salote must be carried on as a tradition. So, he asked Starr to continue the tradition. It was during this visit that Starr decided to take up the request of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV and carry on the name Salote.

Salote retired from her post as Registrar in 2005 and continued with her family responsibilities until her death on December 23, 2020. She was 81 years old.

She was an extraordinary woman driven by her strong work ethics, her immense pride in tautua for her Lutu and Tuipelehake Su’apaia family, and her unconditional love for her husband, children, grandchildren and siblings. Her legacy as our matriarch and pillar of strength will continue on through her family. Our beloved Salote will never be forgotten for she was indeed a woman to behold.

— Sunia, F. I. (2005). The women of American Samoa, 1900-2000: A hundred years of development and achievements. Pago-Pago, American Samoa: Amerika Samoa Humanities Council.