"I LEFT MY HEART IN SAMOA": ROBERT BATCHELOR

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By Gerard P Williams

APIA, Samoa (August 24, 2001 - Samoa Observer)---Leaving his heart in Samoa was just one of the things Mr. Robert Batchelor did when he returned to America 25 years ago.

Now a retired teacher at age 84, Mr. Batchelor is back visiting Samoa for a week. He was asked to stop in at the Samoa Observer yesterday for a chat.

"A song says I will never forget you..." was how Mr. Batchelor, who now lives in Texas, expressed his feelings about the Samoa he left behind in 1976.

"I arrived in 1952 with a group of Canadians who built and taught at Wesley College," he reminisced. From there he moved to Faleula where he taught at George Brown Methodist School.

It was while he was there that he was asked by Samoa College to come and teach, as there was a shortage of science teachers from New Zealand then.

He ended up spending 25 years teaching at Samoa College, and asked what subjects he taught, he said with a smile: "Only the good ones, chemistry and physics."

Most of his students went on to complete their schooling in New Zealand and some returned to occupy positions of authority in government offices and private businesses.

At Samoa College, he was also closely involved in sports, especially in track and field athletics. One of his students is Ms. Dawn Rasmussen, who went on to become an exceptional athlete in her day.

"She set the record in the triple jump which I saw, and that record has just been broken at the Champ of Champs this year," he explained.

He also recalled that sprinter George Vaiao set the record in the track and field events, which was not broken in 18 years. Mr. Batchelor took the college’s girls softball team to six consecutive years as champions.

"Samoa College was the best school at the time," he said. "When I left Samoa College I had been made Assistant Principal and was Head of the Science Department."

"I taught a lot of the public figures working in Samoa today," he said. Some of the people he named are Le Mamea Robert Mualia, Olaf Netzler, Dr. Ioane Alama, Mase Dr. Toia Alama, Ata Maiaai, Aiken Fruean, Filifilia Tamasese, Tili Afamasaga, Seb and Rene Kolhase, Tiavolo Seumanutafa, Savea Sano Malifa and others.

He said Apelu Aiavao was one of his first students to get a scholarship. "While I was still teaching at the Methodist School I taught the late Luagalau Levaula Kamu."

When he retired, he set up a locksmith business at his home at Leififi next door to the Teachers Training College.

"His Highness Malietoa and his good lady Lily were my neighbors back then," he said.

He is hoping to stop in and see him during this visit. But in those days, he became a good friend of the late Mrs. Aggie Grey. He also knew Alan and Marina Grey when they were a younger couple. His property at Leififi was sold to businessman Maualaivao Pat Ah Him.

When he returned to the United States he sold his locksmith business to Roger Parker and Peter Rasmussen.

Mr. Batchelor said: "The business was run from my home back then, and it’s now behind Bartley’s Building in Apia." He said he returned to the U.S. hoping to retire, but on arrival he found he could not do so.

"I didn’t have a social security number so I had to teach for four years," he said.

Afterwards, he retired for a while but went back to teaching at a church school upon request. He did that for six years, after which he retired again.

"In America, there’s a lot of teaching in home," he explained. "So I taught science to children once a week for another year, and retired again."

Mr. Batchelor is once again out of retirement and working as a locksmith once more. He has been returning to Samoa every two to three years and has seen many changes since the old days.

"I remember the NPF Building had just opened when I left and now there are many more tall buildings. There is so much more traffic, better roads and lights. "Polynesian Airlines had only an eight-seater Percival Prince then, which did runs between here and Tutuila," he said.

This time, there is so much going on in Apia and although he’s getting on, Mr. Batchelor wants to think he’ll be back to Samoa once more.

"It’ll probably be my last visit to Samoa now that I’m getting on," he said. "I’ll probably be back next year, and I hope to bring all my friends who have heard so much about Samoa."

Mr. Batchelor is returning to American early next week.

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

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Comments

Love this article. I was introduced to him and his wife Autumn by a friend at the age of 11 years. He had a Sunday School class every Sunday evening that kids from everywhere attended. I attended those Sunday classes and his weekly 'Rally' which is the equivalent of Girl Guide. Wish I kept that Navy Blue white and red uniform :) Continued on as a student at Samoa College and still look at him with that respect as a father figure. Love this couple. His house at Malifa is a haven to little children's souls.

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