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 mike off the lead singer, direct the band as he starts to sing one of his favorite songs, or two, or ten?
You are sure that you came for a young couple’s marriage, or a 21st birthday, but now you’re thinking who is this man? Are we related to him?
Maybe! Maybe not!
But in case you’re not sure - that man is called Opa, or to many of us Tupua Fred Wetzell aka “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, and now he’s saying: “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 in Japanese too.
This was the Opa our family and Samoa grew to love. He was a man who loved to love people. He did so through song, and story telling. He did so 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.
Opa loved his family. He did everything and anything for them. 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.
Our Opa had a lot of sayings that he would share as his words of wisdom to us. I’d like to share some that have impacted our family and hope it would benefit you as well.
“Upstairs for thinking and downstairs for sitting” - although an unusual saying, Opa would always remind the grandchildren where their mind-set should be.
He believed in your potential to be great.
“I started with nothing,’ he said, “and I will leave with nothing.”
Opa was a man who built for himself from the ground up. He made something out of what God gave him. 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.
“Wear a smile and carry on.”
During the hard times in life, 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 had 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”. If anything should come from the passing of our Opa, it would be 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.