So’oalo To’oto’oali’i Roger Stanley, a strong pillar in the Samoa Fa’afafine Association, his family and church, has passed away.
So'oalo died at the Moto’otua Hospital.
The son of Niutea and Stanley of Siusega, So’oalo is a well-known leader in Samoa and the Pacific.
So’oalo, the Founder and President of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association, will be sorely missed by many.
Speaking fondly of So’oalo, S.F.A's Legal Counsel, Alex Su’a said Roger advocated not just for the old fa’afafine, but also the young ones.
“In 2005, when I returned home from law school, Roger approached me about drafting a Constitution to have S.F.A. as a legal body,” Su’a said.
“I embraced the idea and our first visit was to the Prime Minister, and Roger did all the talking and I just sat idle."
“I was actually nervous, you know a young lawyer and I am about to meet the Prime Minister, yet Roger was so calm as if he’s meeting another ordinary person."
“Our meeting with the Prime Minister was quite humorous and he accepted our proposal to be our Patron that was in 2005."
“The next year, we officially launched S.F.A. and the Prime Minister attended."
“The S.F.A. was Roger’s project and 11 years later it is one of the most active associations in the country,” said Su’a.
The S.F.A. Legal Counsel told the Sunday Samoan that back in those days, there was an unspeakable cultures that young fa’afafine do not congregate with the older fa’afafines.
“But Roger was very different, he managed to remove those barriers, the mindset of many of the older fa’afafine and literally opened the door for the young fa’afafine to meet, greet and brainstorm on certain things."
“Roger connected with both the young and old. And that was her strength of being a leader, fast forward now, the Association is well respected in our country."
“Roger was never scared, a fighter and she used that as her strength to advocate for Fa’afafine in Samoa,” said Su’a while holding back tears.
“Roger will be sorely missed and her memory and legacy will live on in us who continue the work she started,” said Su’a.
Kevin Schuster, a member of S.F.A, couldn’t agree more saying they worked on planning and coordinating the Faafafine Week 2017.
“Roger was already scheduled to travel to New York during time of Faafafine Week so the pressure was on us to pre-plan before Roger left."
“Roger is a visionary and I was very surprised that we worked very well together."
“A real advocate who works hard and walks the talk and I was immensely admiring his leadership - he’s simple and straight to the point most of the time but also we knew she played differently when she’s lobbying in high level meetings."
“It’s safe to say Rogers’ leadership made S.F.A. earn the reputation it has to date both nationally and regionally."
“I will remember Roger as the President for S.F.A. forever and it would be hard to picture someone else in that post, Roger was a real advocate who kept things real,” said Schuster.
Efforts to get direct comments from So’oalo’s family have been unsuccessful.
In the meantime, many heartfelt messages have been posted on Facebook by people from all over the world who worked and knew So’oalo.
So’oalo was one of Samoa Observer’s People of the Year for 2017.