6/5/15

The Purcell Family Reunion - 2015


About a week ago on Memorial Day weekend, the Purcell Family (of Samoa) - especially those in the western parts of the United States - had its reunion in St. George, Utah. There were also a few from as far away as Samoa, Florida and Missouri who attended.

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.

...different generations

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

Saturday 23rd:
dinner centerpieces -
real fresh tropical flowers
Gooooood Morning St. George!  The family gathered at the Community Center of the neighboring Washington City (about ten minutes from where most people stayed), where the official reunion t-shirts (red with yellow logo) were handed out.  The single color and design for everyone enhanced the Reunion’s theme of “One Love One Family ”.  Slowly and surely, the crowd  transformed into a sea of red and started filing into the huge indoor basketball court where an opening prayer/devotional was held, followed by the official welcome and introductions.  The family was then divided into four teams (blue, red, yellow and purple) and each team was given a different color of Samoan-produced lavalava for uniforms. The teams then paraded proudly around the court and in front of the MC/DJ stage before the games.  The games were fun, creative and exciting.  The spirit of friendly competition (co-opetition) was evident - after all, they were friendly family games. The complex was engulfed with punctuated cheers, screams, laughter and thundering roars as the level of competition rises.  Adding to the fun and jollity, were the family comedians/team leaders strutting their stuff - both audaciously and genteelly.  In the end it did not matter much which team won, as long as everyone had fun. Ia malo lava le taalo faatausala, malo le faafiafia.

three of the teams with their different uniforms/lavalava
After the games, there was free time. The children invaded the huge indoor/outdoor swimming pool. The youth played indoor volleyball and basketball in the courts adjacent to the main one. The rest of the crowd stayed back and danced to the DJ playing mostly line dancing music.  Meanwhile, outside, the flavor, smell and aroma of grilled and barbecued meat and other goodies wafted through the picnic area and pool side, and even seeped into the different rooms and areas of the complex.  Some members relaxed outside in the shade enjoying the pleasant southern Utah spring weather and taking occasional dips in the pool while waiting for lunch.

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.

WhyEmCeeAy (YMCA)
Towards evening time, the full-size basketball court was transformed into a dining and dancing hall.  First the dinner was buffet style, and was dee-licious.  The menu consisted of “Polyeuroasian” cuisine, typical of most Poly feasts; meaning, makua seki a!  It was worth the 15 minute walk-stop-two steps-stop again- in the slow moving food lines.  Faafetai faamalo le gasese!

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
in Malaela.
Sunday 24th:
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.

Monday 25th (Memorial Day)
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
The day started early with sounds and strains (as in melody, not pains ...lol) of the family’s Zumba fanatics reaching far below the city to those who were still straining (hahaaa) to wake up. During mid morning, the remaining 300-400 (some have already returned home) gathered once more, donning their reunion t-shirts for a family/group picture.
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)
After the meeting, more fun, games, singing and dancing continued. Music again filled the air as DJ tunes provided accompaniment in sync with the different activities.  Once again, the entire park became redolent with the smell of cooking and barbecuing for the final family lunch together.  Soon, everyone was waiting in line, something they had gotten used to - and now comfortable with - during the reunion.  Sentiments of sadness for imminent parting and departure were heard from those waiting in line. Everyone seemed to have felt the curtain slowly dropping and the inevitable decrescendo in the background.  What must have been a haunting thought was that sooner or later, this good thing will come to an end.

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 a few still lingered behind playing ukuleles and guitar and singing Samoan favorites well into late evening.  Either they refused to admit that it was really over or were on the verge of developing a phobia of reunion privation ... LOL!!  Malo le faafiafia!

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

Malaela ne'i galo atu



Photos: Purcell Family Roots Facebook Page

4 comments:

  1. Ok my link to the Purcells of Samoa. Edward Purcell(m)>William Purcell(m)>John Ifau Purcell(m)>Kalo Te'o nee Purcell(f)>Opeta Te'o(m)>me(Francis Te'o)(m).

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    1. Talofa Francis! Nice to meet ya. Please visit the family's Facebook page for a lot of interesting information. I also understand that a new website is in the works to coordinate and organize things for next year's (2016) reunion.

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  2. 14 coats of arms (erroneously called family crests) with the surname Purcell, from Bernard Burke's ninteenth century book "The General Armory"
    https://coadb.com/surnames/purcell-arms.html

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    Replies
    1. Wow John, just now clicked on the link and what a trove of info that is on everything about Purcell name and history!! Thanks much. I will share it with others 👍

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