The life of a man who loved unconditionally, defied the odds to grow an institution in terms of establishing Apia Concrete Products (A.C.P), and gave selflessly to all who needed help was celebrated yesterday.
At the Catholic Cathedral Mulivai, Samoa paused to pay tribute and remember Tupua Frederick Wilhelm Wetzell, who passed away peacefully on Thursday.
He was 83.
The rain dropping softly on the roof of the Cathedral perhaps summed up the sombre feeling of mourners who gathered to remember a man who loved life.
His children were joined by families and friends who had gathered to give him a grand send off. Tupua was later laid in his final resting place at the Magiagi cemetery.
Among the mourners was the Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, the Masiofo, Her Highness Filifilia Tamasese and Members of the Council of Deputies.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi led the government delegation that included Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, heads of government departments and many government employees.
As the Honorary Consul of Japan in Samoa, the funeral was attended by colleagues and members of the diplomatic corps.
The business community was well represented.
His Highness Tui Atua was among three eulogies delivered. He honoured a hard working-man and expressed his deepest condolences to his children and the family.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa said Samoa would miss Tupua’s character and his willingness to help Samoa wherever he could.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Masoe Norman Wetzell remembered their “Opa” as someone who loved to sing and tell stories.
“Have you ever attended a family wedding, birthday, anniversary, government function, or whatever gathering it might’ve been, enjoying the awesome music by the band, and then mid way through have this old looking but young acting German, Samoan man grab the mic off the lead singer, direct the band as he starts to sing off one of his favorite songs, or two, or ten?” he said.
“You are sure that you came for a young couple’s marriage, or a 21st birthday, but now you're thinking who this man is? Are we related to him? Maybe, maybe not?
“But in case you're not, that man is called Opa, or to many Tupua Fred Wetzell a.k.a "The Foundation of Samoa".
“You may have even been at a restaurant enjoying your lovely meal, when our Opa decides after singing Happy Birthday to one of his children/ grandchildren - "I want to sing Happy Birthday to everyone in here."
“So he makes his way over to each table, with his ukulele, sings Happy Birthday in English, and Samoan, and if you're lucky he'll sing a Japanese song for you too.”
Masoe said this was the Opa their family and Samoa grew to love. “He was a man who loved to love people,” he said through his tears.
“He did so through song, and storytelling and also through service and compassion. Opa was a God fearing man. He always acknowledged the Lord in all that he did. He showed his faith through word and deed. He always had a positive outlook on life, because he knew that God was watching over him.”
Above all, Masoe said his father loved his family very much.
“He did everything and anything for them,” he said. “He worked tirelessly from a young age well into where most would retire. He would remind the family as we saw his success grow “I did this all for you".
“He loved Samoa, and forever wanted the world to know how proud he was to be from a great nation. Don’t be mistaken by his white German skin, blonde hair, and green eyes, our Opa was Samoan in every other way.”
Masoe also shared some of his father’s favourite sayings he used to inspire his children.
"Upstairs for thinking and downstairs for sitting - although an unusual saying, Opa would always remind the grandchildren where their mind-set should be and he believed in your potential to be great.
Another one: "I started with nothing, and I will leave with nothing.” “He made something out of what God gave him and he knew that it was given so that during this life he could help others, and acknowledged that one day he would depart from it all. This is a profound statement that reminds us all of who we are, and where we will all be one day.”
When times get tough, he would say: “Wear a smile and carry on."
“There was nothing better than to see the father of the family stand up with a smile and say with great strength I wear a smile and carry on. Opa was there to urge everyone on, and let them know we still got plenty to give.
“Time belongs to no man, but the Lord above - make good use of it!" a complimentary saying from Opa that went along with this, was that "time waits for no man".
He went on to say that if there is anything that comes from the passing away of their “Opa” it would be “If that there should never be a wasted moment.
“Life is worth living, and why not live it to the very best! For those that had the opportunity to rub shoulders with this legend, will know that he soaked every bit of life. He travelled the world, met incredible people, but also helped the meek and lowly.
“He put everything on the line, and worked like his life depended on it. For our family, we will miss his cheerful spirit, and lively talents.
“We love you Opa, and through us we hope to continue to share your legacy to Samoa and the world.” Prime Minister Tuilaepa presented the children of Tupua with the flag of Samoa to remember his service to the government and the nation.
Born: 13th May 1933
Place of Birth: Moto’otua, Apia. SAMOA
Married: Fuatino Frances Freda Cynthia (nee: Godinet)
19th May 1955
Religion: Roman Catholic
Children (5): Frederick Junior, Charlene, Angela, Vernon, Masoe Norman
Grandchildren (9): Carlos, Charlene, Andre, Maverick, Jacy, Jonina, Morgan, Imogen, Ada-Fanua
Great grandchildren (8): Michael Frederick Hsu, Vernon Richard Hsu, Jade Nate Hsu, Daniel Frederick Eti Slater, Andre Jr Wetzell, Katelyn Wetzell, Isabella Sina Wetzell, Carlos Clement Wetzell