Members of the Fuimaono families of American Samoa, Hawaii, California, Nevada, Utah and Missouri gathered in Independence Missouri for their 72nd annual reunion in late July.
Close to 500 descendants of Mateo and Pei’u Fuimaono enjoyed a week of activities together.
For Kalilimoku Hunt, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, it was "a sacred experience where the wise, senior generation could celebrate and counsel with the rising generations."
The first Mateo and Pei’u Fuimaono family reunion took place in Malaeimi, American Samoa in 1940.
According to Hunt, Mateo and Pei'u called their ten children together to discuss ways that they could more fully provide for themselves, take care of each other, and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. And they have been coming together each year ever since.
It was decided at that first gathering that many of the family would move to Hawaii. Over the coming years, further family migrations took place, to California, Utah, Nevada and Missouri.
Today, there are over 900 descendants of the couple, spread throughout those states, and the territory of American Samoa.
But despite the miles that separate them, they are an extremely close extended family, with all paying homage to Mateo and Pei'u for their examples and legacy.
Mateo is remembered by his descendants as a man of great principle, industry, faith and talents. He spoke several languages, which helped him communicate with traders and other travellers passing through his home village.
He wanted his family to be unified in their faith, and to be well equipped to be spiritually and temporally strong.
"As a new convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Hunt says, "our father felt strongly that he needed to bequeath to his ten children skills and knowledge — from within a firm family culture and the Lord’s Church — that would instil Christ-like characteristics within the hearts and minds of all his children and posterity."
Senior Matriarch of the Fuimaono family, Maselina De Guzman, remembers "that those were tough days, when the land in Malaeimi had to be cleared, to establish a family home for our family and the off-spring of our older siblings who were married at the time.”
“Whatever money our father made from the sale of taros, papayas, bananas, breadfruit and other staples that we were able to grow on the land, we used for our upkeep," she said.
Mateo's wife, Pei'u, was "a woman of great spiritual strength," according to Kalilimoku Hunt.
"She was an anchor, and she held the family together because of her dedication to raising her children the best way she knew how."
"Our mother was an avid reader of the Holy Scriptures," he says, "and was a constant counsellor, admonishing us to read and study our scriptures regularly."
"It was always a must that everyone was awakened by 5:00am in the morning for our family prayer. During the village Sa (i.e. the time when villagers go into their homes to have evening prayer), I remember that no matter where we were when our father would whistle everyone ran as fast as we could to be there."
Hunt adds: "Mom Pei’u was in the ocean daily to ensure that if our father was not able to provide meat for the family, she would have a fish to feed her ten children and husband as well as for the neighbors of the village."
He says she was a woman of "peaceful means" and "exemplary in the kindly way that she treated and counselled her family."
One of her favourite songs was "Ia tatou fealofani ma nonofo fa’atasi.” The English translation being, “Let us live together in love and unity."
"This is the way that we will always remember her."
At this year's reunion family members took part in seminars, visited grave sites, worshipped in the temple, participated in family picnics, and a dance, among other activities.
According to Mormon Newsroom, for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “The concept of a united family that lives and progresses forever is at the core of Latter-day Saint doctrine. Within families led by a father and a mother, children develop virtues such as love, trust, loyalty, cooperation and service.”
Read more about Latter-day Saint beliefs regarding families in this Mormon Newsroom article.
Photograph courtesy of Shirley Murdock.