"A legend never dies:" Lauaki Freddie's tribute

Retired professional rugby footballer, Lauaki Fereti Tuilagi has written a heartfelt tribute to the life of his father and “legend”, Tuilagi Namulau'ulu Lauaki Vavae Leo II. 

Lauaki is the oldest of seven brothers, six of whom played professional rugby. Lauaki also played professional rugby league as a centre or on the wing and this year launched TuilaGin.

In response to queries from the Samoa Observer, following the sudden passing of his father last Sunday, Lauaki, who is better known as "Freddie" has described his father as an "intellect" and a "legend."

"Born 2 November 1945, in Tuasivi, he was always an intellect," Lauaki told the Samoa Observer. 

"His intelligence took him to Australia and Fiji before securing a role as deputy registrar at Land and Titles in Mulinuu where he lived for 15 years. 

"My dad showed great commitment to his family when in 1986 he sold his house and land and left his good job to move to Fatausi, Savaii and serve his family as high chief Tuilagi. 

"He lived in Fatausi, fulfilling his role until his final moment.

"He has a god-given gift as one of the best orators and talking chiefs in the Country.

"As the high chief, he selflessly showed undeterred fairness to all."

Lauaki said he is proud of his father's commitment not only to his village but also to his district and Samoa.

He also added that his father had "lived his life to the fullest right down to his last moments."

"For seven years he has been advised by his doctors to stop drinking his favourite drinks, Vailima, and whiskey. 

"However, he died on his own terms, sitting peacefully on his veranda with a bottle of Vailima and his dog by his side, overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean. 

"His love, our mother, Aliitasi, was always by his side, even in his last moments. 

My Dad never openly showed his pride for his sons, however, we didn’t need to hear those words to know that his love and support were unwavering."

The late patriarch of the Tuilagi family was also described by his eldest son as a person who was "full of character and (had) lots of stories."

"One particular story went international when he was asked by a French reporter during the 2007 rugby World Cup whether he played rugby and he said, ‘No, but I am a former heavyweight champion of the world and I sparred Mohammed Ali.’ 

"We are still asked to this day whether our dad was a famous boxer, we jokingly reply ‘yes, he had five fights: four loses and one win, but only because his opponent didn’t turn up’. 

"As time went by, he became known for his greeting ‘E Agalelei le Alii’ and his open palm handshake which would be useful to accept 10 tala to use at his favourite social spot, RSA. 

"His unique laugh was always present and it will forever brighten up the darkness."

Lauaki then acknowledged the love and support of the matriarch of their family, her mother, Su'a Ali'itasi Tuilagi, who loved and took care of their father. 

"My Dad was such a great man because of the love and support from my mum. 

"She has and will always be the rock of our family. Thank you, Mum, for all your love and support to Papa. 

"You have spent a lifetime together and you took care of him so well up until his last breath and beyond."

Furthermore, Lauaki said: "Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. 

"Where there is deep grief, there was great love."

He also took the opportunity to express his gratitude to family and friends who had shown love for their father while he was alive. 

"On behalf of my Dad and my family, I want to take this opportunity to thank his friends, family, and everyone who loved him and looked out for him. 

"I can’t name specific names because there are too many of you but your prayers and well wishes have been overwhelming."

His final words for his father are: "Papa, your legacy will live on through your children and grandchildren, we can’t thank you enough for everything you have done for us. 

"A legend never dies. 

"Alofa atu Papa, until we meet again. “E Agalelei le Alii”.

The family service for the former Member of Parliament, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and father of the Tuilagi Brothers will be held on Thursday this week, with his final service on Friday. 

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