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By B. Chen-Fruean

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Dec. 8) - Ambassador of the Samoan culture, educator and journalist Muli'aumasealii Aleni Ripine passed away in his sleep Tuesday morning at his Pago Pago residence. He was 76.

His last official post was heading the Samoan Language Department at the American Samoa Community College. Throughout his life, Ripine, as he is widely known by his friends and family, remained an active member of the community and government. Ripine was the editor of the Samoa News for several years up until the day of Lutali's inauguration in 1985.

During the last administration of the late Governor A.P Lutali (1993-96) Ripine served as chief of staff, acting director of Human Resources and special assistant to the governor. Ripine and former Lutali's public relations officer Rob Shaffer, worked in collaboration with the governor and released, in 2001, Lutali's book, "My Samoan Journey."

Ripine also spent time in Washington, in a brief stint during the term of former Congressman Fofo Sunia.

In education, he was the first Samoan vice principal for Fagaitua High School in 1968-69. He was also a principal at Samoana High School. In the community, Ripine was a former chapter manager of the local American Samoa Red Cross and a charter member of the Lions Club.

Aleni's daughter Theresa said her father loved his family very much. "He was such a caring, loving father who absolutely loved and spoiled his grandchildren," reminisced his daughter Theresa. "He was just a good person who always dedicated his time and life to his work. He never slept much, only taking little cat naps before getting back to work on his computer."

Many who knew Ripine agree that the one noticeable characteristic he possessed was his dedication to the preservation of the Samoan language and culture. This was evident in his participation as the project coordinator for the development of a Samoan language dictionary, and also as the Itulagi commissioner for the Fale'ula o Fatua'i'upu, an international organization dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of the Samoan language.

Former Samoa News publisher Lewis Wolman said yesterday that Ripine was his first Samoan language teacher. Wolman was hired to take over Ripine's post as editor of the Samoa News in 1985 when Ripine left the paper to take up a job in government.

Rene Clemens of the LBJ Tropical Medical Center - who took over for Ripine as acting chief of staff for the Lutali administration - was shocked to hear about Ripine's passing.

"He was definitely one of the finest men I've ever known," said Clemens. "He had so much love and dedication for the Samoan language and traditions. His knowledge of Samoan history was both remarkable and unbelievable. Ripine was such an incredible man."

Like Clemens, Mike Sala, executive director for the Office of Territorial and International Criminal Intelligence and Drug Enforcement was also shocked to hear the news of Ripine's passing.

"He was such a great friend who was always forthright with me and everyone else he knew," Sala remembered. "I knew him for over three decades and we were very close."

Sala recalled how he and Ripine met in the early 80s, when he served as the charter president for the Lions Club, of which Ripine was a charter member.

"Ripine was involved in a lot of community service projects," said Sala. "He was truly an honorable man, very bright, intelligent, honest and dedicated. He was an excellent writer and well respected by all his friends and everyone else who came to know him."

One of Ripine's former students described him as being a "great teacher who was very serious about the material he was presenting."

"Mr. Ripine had his own unique way of teaching. He made us learn the Samoan language by using metaphors and breaking down the material so we could understand it better."

According to Ripine's daughter Theresa, her mother remains strong, "and she is taking it very well."

Ripine is survived by his wife Alaiasa Iloa Ripine and six children: Ray (Tusiofo) Tavu'i, Theresa (Samuelu) Faumuina, Allen (Vai) Ripine, Bruce Ripine, Vaeila Ripine, and Ana Tuimanu'a, and a dozen grandchildren.

Final funeral services for Ripine will be held next Thursday, December 22 at the Fatuoaiga Cathedral. Afterwards, Ripine's body will be transported to the independent state of Samoa where he will be laid to rest in Moto'otua the following day, December 23.

"This is our own family land and he'll be the first person from our family to be buried there," Theresa explained. "This is what he wanted."

December 9, 2005

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