Mafatini Taimane-Latiti Mafatini III was loved by all who knew him, but maybe no one loved him more than the youngest of his five sisters, Anelu, 5 years old.
Mafatini, a 2021 Baldwin High School graduate and Snow College freshman, died in a car crash near Ephraim, Utah on Sunday. He was 18 years old.
Mafatini, known to “Mane boy” by close friends and family, will be honored today in a comeback parade ahead of Snow’s game against the Iowa Western No.3. At half-time of the match, a perpetual scholarship to Snow College will be announced in his memory.
Mane Mafatini was one of seven children of Kaila and Leroy Mafatini Jr. In his immediate family, Mane Mafatini is survived by his parents; brother Leroy “Tama” Mafatini III, 22; and sisters Tinoi, 26; Talosaga, 16 years old; Tatiana, 12 years old; Teuila, 8 years old; and Anelu.
Mane Mafatini had a very special bond with his younger sister, affectionately known to her brother as “Pork ribs.”
“From the time she was born until her death, No.7 was known as her best friend”, Kaila Mafatini said Friday by phone from Utah. “They were called, you know, ‘Hi, best friend’, ‘Hi, best friend.’ It is really the baby that he took under his wing because she is the baby of the family.
Last spring, the two best friends shared a special moment when Mane graduated from Baldwin and Anelu graduated from kindergarten.
“Anelu graduated from kindergarten and my son graduated from high school together, so it was a special thing for these two to have like a diploma together,” said Kaila Mafatini. “We had seven children and he’s my number 3, he’s my baby, my cutest son. He’s my sweet boy.
While services in Maui are on hold, a funeral was held Thursday in Ephraim, Utah.
Her grandmother, an aunt and two first cousins, two nieces and a niece’s daughter accompanied the entire immediate Mafatini family to Utah this week to say goodbye and bring home the young man whose middle name translates to “Small Diamond” in Samoa.
“We came 14 forts here, and everything for him”, said Kaila Mafatini. “We came to bring my son home together. “
The Snow College Mafatini Bursary was funded by a family who shared their decision to donate with the Mafatini, but wish to remain anonymous.
It’s worth $ 5,000 a year, to be split in half or used by a student appointed by the current soccer coach for a full ride to school.
This is just one of the many moments that touched the Mauians in Utah.
“We are just humbled and grateful” said Kaila Mafatini. “It was all of the people we met during our time here who were truly sincere in their outpouring and showing their love and support. It was just real and intimate.
“It all felt so genuine from the administrators at the school and especially from the AD Rob (Nielson) school. He’s been pretty much my favorite, he’s the one I’ve spoken to from Maui coordinating everything here and he’s been more than helpful.
Kaila added that her family had been personally invited to participate in the comeback parade today by members of the football team, one of the many thoughts that brought tears to tears.
“We had a tour and service for him on Thursday and it was just the most special thing ever,” she said. “The whole football team was on duty, they sang a number, the whole team and the coaching staff in their jerseys. It was such a strong and powerful thing – they sang a song, then they sang it in Tongan. We’re Samoans, but that was their thing. They sang a version in Tongan.
Two of Mafatini’s uncles and Jack Damuni, Baldwin’s former assistant football coach and Maui youth coach, were speakers on Thursday’s services.
Damuni started the Wailuku Hurricanes team in the Maui Big Boys League and Kaila was a team mom, while Mane played on the team. Damuni is now the Executive Coordinator of Campus Recruitment and Community and Player Relations at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
“In my post I talked about the passion to play this sport and if you have the passion to do what you want you can achieve whatever goals you want”, Damuni said Friday by phone. “But Mane also had a passion for building relationships and making friends. And that’s the reason he was able to touch a lot of lives there in Ephraim, Utah.
Whether it was people from his football team or people from the library or just people on campus – he brought this ‘Aloha Spirit’ he learned growing up on Maui with him to Ephraim, Utah, and it allowed them to discover what it is to be, to connect with Mane when they are around him to see what it is like to live here on Maui.
Damuni added, “Relationships and friendships were most important to Mane and that is why it is such a tragic loss.“ Not only will you miss football player Mane, but you will certainly be touched by the loss of your friend Mane. ” “
Baldwin released a statement on Mafatini’s death. Several current Bears players had his name painted on their helmets in practice Thursday.
“It is with a very heavy heart that our Baldwin community mourns the death of Mafatini Mafatini III”, the school statement read. “An outstanding multisport student-athlete, Mafatini has played football, basketball and track and field. He was a hard worker and a leader in voice and example.
“Most importantly, he was a team player who earned him the respect of his peers and coaches. He will be sadly missed and send our deepest condolences to his entire family. “
Baldwin’s football coach Pohai Lee has said he will never forget Mafatini, who persevered by missing his senior season for Baldwin’s football in 2020 when it was called off due to COVID- issues. 19.
“He was a special child and that’s why it’s so hard to believe he’s gone”, Lee said Thursday night. “He really made an impact, not only with us, but the short time he spent at Snow – he made his mark.”
Mafatini was a Maui Interscholastic League All-Star first team on the defensive line and a second team on the offensive line in 2019 as a junior.
In an article in The Maui News in August, Mafatini said he found his place in Snow, where he walked but quickly got a scholarship: “It was a blessing to have another chance to play football, I could have been made for my career, honestly. I’m just happy to have another chance to go out and have some fun.
When asked what he would say to the Bears players behind him, as they waited for the 2021 season which was delayed due to COVID-19 concerns, Mafatini said: “I just tell my boys it’s an opportunity to keep working. Basically, “keep trying to improve yourself in your profession” and all that. “
“These are special words that he passed on and he lived them”, Lee said. “He became the player he was and he knew what he wanted to do after high school and he made it all happen.”
Joe Siofele, an outstanding former Saint Louis School and University of Arizona defensive lineman, was Mafatini’s D-line coach at Baldwin. Siofele, who was a teacher at the Iao Middle School where Mafatini attended, now lives in St. George, Utah.
“Stayed in touch with Mane and me and texted him just a few weeks ago congratulated him when your (Maui News) article came out,” said Siofele. “I texted him and said, ‘Keep working hard, man. You have your whole future ahead of you. … It was hard to swallow, man.
Lee said Mafatini was definitely an NCAA Division I prospect, while Siofele agreed and said the NFL was not out of reach for the strong family youngster.
“Mane was a coach’s dream, a dream player, just humble, hardworking, did everything you asked him to, never complained,” Siofele added. “It was just ‘Yeah, coach. Yes, coach. Just one of those kids that you loved to have the chance to train. He certainly comes from a large family.
Like Siofele and Lee, Baldwin’s basketball coach Cody Tesoro swallowed back tears when he spoke about Mafatini, who played three years in college basketball for the Bears, making the team a first year.
“First and foremost man my deepest condolences go out to their family and excuse me if I start to cry because he had a special place in my heart.” Tesoro said. “It’s tough, he was such a good boy and the thing I remember the most about him – and you will probably hear it from everyone else you talk to – is that he had that smile on his face. . He had that charismatic smile. It was so contagious and so contagious. … That smile, that look, I’ll never forget it.
“The way he behaved was the guy who, when he knew a teammate was down, he would come to me and tell me that you might want to go see him… he might need to talk a little, a little a little encouragement – it was always someone else. His life was only just beginning.
* Robert Collias is at [email protected]