How Su’a Mene from Papa Sataua came to live and became well known in Apia

The family of Su’a Mene and Saunoailemau are gathering in Apia this week to celebrate the sacrifices, love, strong family values, work ethic and hard work of their forebears. Su’a Peseta Desmond Mene Lee Hang writes:

Mene Su’a, who later in life became Su’a Mene, was born in Papa Sataua on 17 December 1914. He passed away on 2 July 1971. 

Young Mene before he was bestowed the title Su’a was culturally adopted and brought over from Papa Sataua to assist with daily chores by his older cousin Alatupe who was married to Tuiletufuga Tiafu of Apia. 

He attended the Marist Brothers’ (primary) school at Mulivai and then went onto Avele College at Vailima before joining the Police Force. Su’a Mene married Saunoailemau Su’a (the daughter of Su’a Utumatagitagi Uila of Fasitoouta & Lalomanu Aleipata and Faavevelaalofi Tofaeono of Siumu). They had 8 children plus many adopted children who have returned to their Family Home at Maluafou this week to celebrate the first Su’a Mene Family Reunion.    

Su’a Mene started work at the Police Force around the mid 1930’s from the lower rank of constable and slowly moved up the ranks, through promotions until he became a police sergeant. 

The position of sergeant in the old police force was considered a high ranking officer given the few numbers back then. Today it’s a different story. Anyway, numerous stories have been told about Su’a Mene’s humility, courage, humour, compassion and loyalty. 

One of those stories is about his sense of humour, this have been retold by many who are not related to us, it is about the day Su’a Mene commanded the police parade during one morning flag ceremony. 

They said as the police parade came down one lane of a two lane road nearing a queue of cars, another queue of cars was building up behind the parade. Meanwhile the other lane of the road was busy with traffic but the kerbside of the lane where the parade was on, was fenced with a pa-aute (hibiscus hedge fence). 

So as the parade draw closer and closer to the cars in front, the officers were anxious to hear the next command before their parade marched into the car in front of them. And then at last, they heard Sua’s deep sonorous voice called out, “Parade Pa-aute!” – everyone dispersed into the hibiscus fence with laughter and that’s where Toetu one of our uncle’s got his nickname ‘Pa-aute’ from.

Since Su’a Mene was the only person from the village of Papa Sataua in Savai’i that lived and worked in Apia at the time, he became the village of Papa’s main contact in Apia. Many kids from Papa came to stay with Su’a Mene and Saunoa while attending school in Apia. A feat that made Su’a Mene a well known name to many elderly people from Papa Sataua & Siumu. 

Sadly, on the 2nd of July, 1971 while preparing for a trip to the United States, Su’a suddenly fell ill and passed away enroute to the hospital. He died at the age of 56. He was buried opposite the Police station in Apia at the Tuiletufuga Tiafu family cemetery.

He was later exhumed (liutofaga) in 1982. His remains were taken to his home village of Papa Sataua and placed together with the other holders of the title Su’a in the family loa (tomb). However, cyclone Ofa in January 1990 flattened the seaside village of Papa Sataua and demolished the Su’a tomb that was located near the original village E.F.K.S. church building.

Anyway that’s how Su’a Mene came to live in Apia from a young age. 

He was educated in Apia, he lived, served and worked in Apia, and finally died and was buried at the Tuiletufuga cemetery in Apia next to the Police Station. 

As we gather in Apia this week we pay tribute to our Papa Su’a Mene and our Mama Saunoailemau for their sacrifices, their love, their strong family values, work ethic and hard work.

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