(KAPOLEI, Hawai'i) — Students, parents and colleagues are mourning the sudden loss of school teacher Esther Reid Trani, a leader in Hawai'i's Samoan community who worked tirelessly to perpetuate the arts and language of Samoa.
Trani's mother Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau, longtime educator and politician from American Samoa, joined Kapolei High School for a memorial held in her daughter's honor, May 7 at the campus. Flags at Kapolei were flown at half mast.
In video footage, Hunkin-Finau delivered a tearful speech. She said her daughter, known among students as 'Aunty Esther', told her: "Mom, aua le tagi (don't cry)."
"She's at peace," said Vaitinasa through tears. "Her spirit lives and she holds each of you by the hand."
Vaitinasa thanked Kapolei, the principal and staff with whom her daughter worked "for making life meaningful."
"Do the best in your culture programs and in your Polynesian Club and Samoan Club," she advised. "Keep her legacy alive. She's at peace and she loves you very much."
In posts all around social media, Kapolei parents are thanking Trani for everything she's done for their children.
Students remember their Aunty Esther as "selfless, loving and kind," someone who always gave of her time. They could always turn to her with personal teenage problems.
Led by Trani, a group of students from Kapolei recently visited Samoa.
Kapolei and schools with Polynesian/Samoan clubs around the state of Hawai'i are preparing for the We Are Samoa High School Cultural Arts Festival this weekend at the Polynesian Cultural Center in La'ie on the North Shore of O'ahu, Hawai'i.
Several fireknife dancers from Samoa are competing in the World Fireknife (Siva Afi) Championships, part of the annual festival at PCC.
We Are Samoa was founded by the late Kumu Hula O'Brian Eselu at Paradise Cove on the Leeward Coast of O'ahu.