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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Dec. 31) - Death struck the core of both the political and cultural arenas in American Samoa in 2003 leaving behind unfulfilled legacies and a new generation of leaders.

The most devastating to American Samoans both here and abroad came in March when Governor Tauese P.F. Sunia died while onboard a flight to Honolulu from Apia, seeking medical care.

The news of his death was carried by international news organizations. Tauese's last term in office is now being carried out by Governor Togiola Tulafono.

Another cultural and political death came two months later with the passing of Senator S.E. Sala, 62, while still in Honolulu after medical treatment and preparing to return home.

Senator Sala represented one of the two Ituau district seats in the Senate. But in July the Ituau district and American Samoa suffered another loss, when Senator Maluia P.T. Filoitumua died in the territory at the age of 68.

One of the biggest losses to the Samoan culture was the death of the father and founder of fire knife dancing, former Senator and businessman, Paramount Chief Letuli Olo Misilagi, who passed away in Honolulu at 84.

Letuli's passing also made international news because of what he accomplished in life, especially his fire knife dancing craft that put Samoa on the map.

In the year's round-up of notable individuals who passed away in 2003, the Associated Press included Tauese and Letuli.

The business community lost one of its own with the death of long-time businessman Hugo Gebauer.

Other deaths covered by Samoa News were Leland Patrick Yandall, a diver with the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources who died while diving off Leone and William Pila Kikuchi, 68, the first archaeologist to do work in American Samoa, who passed away off-island.

The most tragic of the many deaths in 2003 carried by the media in news reports were those who committed suicide and the disappearance of Wyatt Bowles Jr., whose body has never been found and has since been presumed dead.

In the war in Iraqi, two sons of American Samoa in the U.S. Army were killed in the line of duty: Specialist Farao Kevin Letufuga, 20, and Private Jonathan I. Falaniko, 20, (see separate story).

January 1, 2004

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