Originally planned for just one branch, it soon grew to include the rest of the main branches of the clan. The reunion has since been touted as perhaps the biggest Purcell get together ever - over seven hundred strong. Amazingly, planning only started three months prior, and social media had a lot to do with coordinating and facilitating the entire endeavor.
The Purcell family has its roots in Malaela, Aleipata starting with Ned William Purcell from Ireland and Salaevalu Siilatamai from Tufutafoe, Savaii. The family has since grown and has spread throughout the world with major concentrations in NZ, Australia and the US.
The reunion was a blast - from the future, the present and the past, in terms of generations represented. It was a boom - in terms of its felt impact on arrival, as well as the effect on the city’s local economy. The hotels were invaded, Community Center paraded, swimming pools waded, stores and restaurants raided, parks brigaded and chapels/churches crusaded.
But the reunion also started with a bang. Literally! Coincidence or not, the reunion was heralded and announced by an earthquake on Friday morning (May 22nd ) - the arrival and registration day - while members of the family from surrounding areas were on their way to St. George:
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A magnitude-4.8 earthquake struck a rural area of southern Nevada on Friday, shaking buildings more than 100 miles away and shutting down a busy Las Vegas interchange as road-tripping travelers were descending on Sin City for Memorial Day weekend. The U.S. Geological Survey revised an earlier report that pinned the magnitude of Friday's earthquake at 5.4. The temblor hit at 11:47 a.m. about 24 miles southwest of the small town of Caliente, and most of Southern Nevada felt it, along with parts of Utah including St. George....
And so on that earthshaking sign, the Reunion was then officially opened! ...:)
Friday 22nd: Arrival & Registration
|... a wide view of the court/hall, part of the much bigger community center|
|dinner centerpieces -|
real fresh tropical flowers
|three of the teams with their different uniforms/lavalava|
In the multipurpose room, the genealogy workshop was underway, and was well attended by the older and senior members of the family. Because of the considerable number of descendants and several generations of the family (as in any other big family) that likely date as far back as the late1800's it was a bit of a challenge to consolidate, merge and compile the charts for different branches. Scant, limited yet varied, and sometimes negligible record keeping - especially in a culture that thrives on oral traditions - made the reconciliation and aggregation of records somewhat difficult. Nonetheless, it was a step in the right direction and the effort was only the beginning of a worthy goal and pursuit of finding and rectifying the roots of the proverbial family tree. Faamalo lava i le tausia o le polo'aiga o le fanafanau ma uluuluola! Ua fua tele le niu.
Then the tables and chairs were put away leaving the wide open floor for the dance. The DJ shifted gears and pumped up the music for some “heel, toe, dosey doe-ing”. The cross-generational line dances always filled up the floor quickly. A few times, the bright white lights were dimmed and the psychedelic/disco lights changed the moods to some of years past. One of those was expressed by The Village People inviting the Purcell People - the MIA, YA and YSA - to go to the YMCA. The older generations had their chances and genre too - the slow waltz, especially to Samoan oldies. For those who were raised in Samoa, nostalgia was evident as they sang along while dancing. The recent remake of “Tora” (Tiama’a) was powerful, for me at least. Who can, or would, forget:
|...us with three of our daughters and a son-in-law at the dinner|
Le galo e, i le agaga
E ui ina va i le vasa
Lau ta'utinoga e
pupula pei o se ata
Fia alu atu se'i tepa tasi
Lau afioga matalasi
Lo'u manao dear ua sautualasi
Lou aiga le mafua’aga
Tora ea ia e malaga ....
All in all, everyone had so much fun, was entertained, informed and happy. And so they called it a day - and night. Malo le eva.
|... dearie's mom taualugaina le po,|
"Grandma" is a second/third generation descendant
Salaevalu>Isabella>Grandma - perhaps the oldest
surviving member, at least of those
born, raised and lived
Welcome welcome Sabbath morning. The homogeneous religious affiliation to the LDS Church of the Purcell family is constantly a blessing, benefit and an advantage among its members. Everyone speaks the same spiritual jargon, which is always an asset to family unity and reunions. Again it started in Malaela, which is an all-Mormon village. This spiritual kinship was evident throughout the reunion and especially in music on this Sunday. The family attended the Samoan ward and was invited to sing one song during the 9:00 am services. Without any prior practice, the family rendered this particular Samoan LDS favorite - “Ua Mafaufau Pea” - superbly as if they had practiced for days. The family was again invited to sing in a palagi ward at 1:00 pm where they sang the same Samoan hymn and an English one, “But By Me”. Again, the singing was redundantly beautiful. Incidentally, music - gospel and other genres - is a forte that runs in the Purcell blood, and therefore on this Sunday, there was no shortage of skilled pianists, conductors, musicians and/or angelic voices. Malo le ta’i, malo le tauataa’i malo fo’i le tapua’i (worship).
|...sunday to'ana'i - lalafi i lalo o keuila ..lol|
Something else interesting of note, though perhaps more coincidental than not, was that the last name of the bishop of the palagi ward was, guess what? Yes, Purcell! - Bob Purcell. No relation,...ummm... yet; although during his remarks, he said he has, and still is in the process of researching his genealogy and will join the reunion when he’s assured of any links. In fact, he has been to Malaela as part of his family search journey. More interesting still is that one of Dearie’s uncles is also named Bob (Purcell), and he was at the reunion too. Stay tuned?
|... with one of dearie's uncles|
At five o’clock, the family had their Sunday to’ana’i in the cultural hall of the same chapel, followed by a fireside. The to’ana’i was more of the usual "Polyeuroasian" menu (taro, palusami, salted beef, chop suey, oka, green salad, etc.). Hey, can’t, and won’t complain. Personally, as long as there’s taro, palusami, chop suey and oka, then the to’ana’i qualifies as real, delicious and traditional. Thirst from the afternoon heat was soon quenched by the homemade mango and pineapple juices. Dainty to say the least. After the toana’i there was so much food left, and for a crowd of hundreds of people, it speaks to the kinds of preparation (food and other things) that went into the reunion planning by the different committees. Malo le ‘a‘ao malosi. Faafetai i lo tou faaeaea e ala i sauniuniga uma ae maise i mea’ai ma taumafa.
O le toe aso nai Moamoa. (The last day). It was a beautiful day. It was sunny, with clear blue skies, and a cool balmy breeze all of which capped off nicely the reunion days of fun, games and festivity that have etched deep into the memories of all that attended. Memorial Day was even more memorable for the family. The day’s activities were at the beautiful elevated Highland Park. The antenna view of the surrounding areas was picturesque. The park had all the offerings and amenities for a family reunion - pavilions, playgrounds, grassy fields and knolls, trees for shade, bathrooms, etc., The family also brought a couple of huge pole tents.
|just some of the family who stayed til the final day|
After the family photo op, a short meeting was called to discuss, among other things, the plan for another reunion (time, date and place). The decision was easy. Based on the success of this reunion, it will be a repeat - same place, same time - though not in two, three or four years, as in most big family reunions, but NEXT YEAR! 2016! Ia faamalo atu i le tofa mamao ma le faautaga manino!!
|...getting ready for dinner (Saturday)|
And surely in a few hours that followed, it did, and fond farewells were bid and “Goodbye My Feleni” became the reluctant refrain of the closing moments. As the family left and descended from Highland Park, it was as if another rumble was felt in the earth to officially close the reunion. The convoy of cars moved with its teary occupants waving and parting with so much sweet sorrow.
|"Ua ou sau nei se'i tatou aleaga, i si o'u nu'u moni o Aleipata"|
But no worries, we will see you all again next year! Yeah? ... So far, based on expressed interests - on social media mostly - the anticipated crowd is likely going to double in 2016.
Aaaand finally, a BIG hearty faamalo (kudos) needs to go out to the president, director and members of different committees (all names withheld due to privacy and other legitimate reasons) for a wonderful, successful and memorable reunion.
...one more time, our version of ...
Goodbye my feleni o le a ou te'a
Ae folau le vasa le ali'i e pule i Meleke
Ne'i galo mai Malaela, si o ta 'ele'ele
Ae manatua mai pea le 'au Posele (Purcell)
Oh I never will forget you
Malaela, ne’i galo atu
Oh, I never will forget you