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Aisa “Ace” Aumoeualogo
by Susy Buchanan

Goodnight Mr. Logo
Mourners from several circles of life remember one of Anchorage’s unsung angels.

July 27 - August 2, 2000 / Vol. 9, Ed. 30


The early evening summer solstice sky bleeds like a watercolor above the parking lot of the Mormon church on Baxter Road, which overflows with mourners who have come to honor the life of Aisa “Ace” Aumoeualogo.

Aumoeualogo—a respected educator, youth counselor, leader in the Mormon Church and one of the few solid bridges between Anchorage’s political leaders and the city’s Samoan community—died one week before while dip-netting on the Copper river near Chitina.

His mourners flood the church, filing past buffet tables soon to be laden with roast pork and chicken, taro root, and bananas. Inside, a partition has been pulled back between the chapel area and the gymnasium, and ushers in dark blazers hastily pull beige chairs from giant stacks, creating more and more rows.

Behind the altar, Aumoeualogo’s family sits partially obscured by a collage of brightly colored floral arrangements; bold yellow sunflowers, fiery red gladiolas, and daisies interspersed with more conventional white memorial wreaths.

The faces and garb of the mourners offer a similarly varied tableau—rich, caramel-colored skin and wiry black hair mixes with balding white pates. Dark suits blend with tropical print shirts, vibrant sarongs, and black and orange letter jackets belonging to West High students come to pay their respects to the man they called “Mr. Logo.”

There are children everywhere. Some sit sagely on their mothers’ laps, others scamper back and forth between the rows, bewildered by so many grown-ups sitting quietly inside on such a glorious day.

The great number and diversity of the mourners seems a fitting tribute to a man remembered for having a heart as big as his voracious appetite for life. Mayor Rick Mystrom is in attendance, along with West High School principal Lance Bowie and the nearly 200 members of the 16th Samoan Branch of the Mormon church. Aumoeualogo’s mother and father, long ago divorced, are also here. It’s the first time they’ve shared a room since 1958.

The service begins with a pair of hymns, followed by a prayer in Samoan. The slow, smooth cadence of the language sweeps over the congregation like a rising tide.

Ace’s sister, Suataute “Coke” Anoai, begins her eulogy at the beginning:

“He was the oldest of 13 children, born at 7:15 on a Wednesday morning in American Samoa in 1950.”

* * *

The islands of American Samoa are in the South Pacific Ocean, some 2,600 miles south of Hawaii. They’re as lush as a Gauguin painting; black volcanic rocks covered by rain forests jut dramatically out of a sea as clear and blue as a topaz. The islands are surrounded by brilliant coral reefs, and the ocean’s bounty is abundant. Trees bear coconuts and breadfruit, and the sweet smell of gardenias perfumes the air. This was the world Ace Logo was born into; an isolated existence with a rhythm as slow and gentle as the lapping of waves on sand.

When Ace was two weeks old, his mother, Sipopo, remembers taking him outside to bathe him. A neighbor wandered over, intrigued by the baby’s cries, and stared intently at Ace. “Your son is destined for great things in a foreign land,” she told Ace’s mother. “Just look at the shape of his feet.”

That Ace was his mother’s favorite is something none of his siblings will dispute, and something his mother readily admits. “He was my first child, the first one to call me mother, so he was special in my life,” she says two days after her son’s memorial service. “He was always a good boy, always dependable. He always did more than I expected.”

Ace was the one she called on to discuss problems she had with her other children, and she relied on him to straighten them out if she thought they were on the wrong track. He was also the only one of her children she allowed to ride in her Lincoln Continental when he came to visit her in California.

They talked often, she says, at least weekly. She remembers in particular a telephone conversation they had a year ago about something that happened in his childhood. He was six years old, and she had asked him to take the bus into town, about three miles away, to buy some items at the supermarket. He told her he had waited for the bus to come, and finally decided that he would rather walk the distance than stand around waiting. “He said that was the first time he felt his independence. He was so proud of himself, it was such an important moment in his life, and I never knew anything about it until he told me.”

Later, when Ace was older and in his first year of high school, she remembers him turning to her in the car as she drove him to school. “He asked me ‘Mom, who is this speaking inside of me?’ Poor me I didn’t understand anything then. It wasn’t ‘til way, way later when I changed my life and turned my life totally over to God that I knew what he meant.”

Ace’s mother says that when she first heard God speak to her in 1976, she remembered what her son had said, and “cried like a baby.”

“When they came to tell me, they said there had been an accident, that the two boys were fishing and one was lost. As soon as I heard it was Ace, my head dropped down and the whole world was darkness and I cried out loud ‘Oh God!’”

* * *

Atisa Logo’s smile blooms across her face as she speaks of her husband while stroking her youngest daughter’s silky hair. Pictures of Ace crowd the hearth, and family photos vie for space with paintings of biblical scenes on the walls of the midtown home. Memorial wreaths of silk flowers spill out of the living room into the front yard, where more of Ace and Atisa’s eight children ride bikes in the driveway under a basketball hoop.

Atisa remembers her and her future husband’s first date as something of a fiasco. It was December of 1980 in American Samoa. The date had been arranged two months earlier, at the suggestion of church officials. Atisa’s father was not too happy about the idea—she was 21-years-old, Ace was 31—and withdrew his permission at the last minute. Atisa says she ran to her grandmother’s house to call Ace and let him know the date was off, but it was too late. He was already on his way. She says she told her father “Okay, you messed this up, you have the date!” and ran upstairs. “I sat there like a child sulking.” In the meantime, her father and Ace sat downstairs and talked for hours. She says that a few times they sent for her to come down and join them, but she remained obstinate in her anger, upset at missing out on her office Christmas party, which she and Ace had planned on attending together.

“I was too mad to come down” she says. “As a result, my dad and I didn’t talk for a few days. The next day I felt bad and tried to call Ace to apologize for how I had behaved, but I didn’t get through. I felt sorry and embarrassed.”

A few days later, her church ward held its Christmas party, and she found herself in the back serving up cake when someone told her Ace had arrived. “My first thought was to hide, but he came through the door and stood right beside me. He said ‘Hi,’ and smiled at me. I said ‘Hi’ back and went on serving up the ice cream and cake even though it wasn’t really time yet. I was nervous. He came right back with me and helped, and when we were done he asked me for a lunch date and we went from there.”

Less than two months later, on Valentine’s Day 1981, Ace asked Atisa to marry him. “I thought that since we had only met in December that this was a little soon,” Atisa recalls. “I told him I needed time to think it over. I was unsure if it was the right step to take. Being a Mormon, I fasted and prayed and asked Heavenly Father for guidance.” She finally accepted in March, and the couple were married in June at the Mormon temple in Los Angeles, ceremonially sealed together for eternity in the tradition of their shared faith.

At first things were a bit difficult for the young couple, Atisa admits, smiling again as her eyes fill with tears she does not shed. “It was hard not knowing each other that well, but we struggled through it. He was easy-going, and I guess I was the opposite. I had to have things a certain way. He was 31, after all, and I was 21 and still a child in many ways.”

She says that with time their marriage grew to be a happy one, and in the last years, as the children grew older, it was becoming more solid.

“I look back and I see that after 19 years we have been blessed with many talents and resources that have gone unrecognized because of adjusting to one another. It has taken this long for us to finally start to become friends, and the saddest thing for me is that we were just learning to do that, to accept one another as we are. Women are always wanting to change the guy you know. About the time Faith (now three years old) was born, I was learning to see him as he is and love him as he is. It took all this time for us to comprehend one another.”

Atisa says her children and her faith in God gave her the strength to address the nearly 1,000 people who attended her husband’s memorial service. “I was really surprised at how many people were there, how many he had opened his heart to while I was home with the children.”

* * *

After obtaining his master’s degree in education from the University of Hawaii, Ace moved with his growing family to Chinle, Arizona, where he worked at a high school on an Indian reservation. When the school’s budget could not accommodate the $30,000 needed to buy the sports teams new uniforms, Ace took it upon himself to raise the money. He enlisted a sister in California to help him put on a series of Polynesian cultural shows in the area. Ace’s plan worked, and he was elated.

In 1993, after a year spent teaching in Barrow, Ace and his family moved to Anchorage and he looked for work. His brother Leroy recalls that in Ace’s first year in Anchorage, he held down three jobs. He worked as a bilingual tutor, an attendant at the city gym, and had a paper route. Eventually, he was offered a position as a bilingual counselor at Service High School, and then hired on as an assistant principal at West High.

Dr. Bowie says he was impressed by Ace’s gentle strength. “I have extremely high expectations for assistant principals, and I push them. Ace never quivered. He always looked at things in the best interest of the kids.”

Ace applied his strength to a volatile situation that developed in 1994, after a series of violent incidents involving Samoan street gangs in Anchorage. In Samoa, children are raised by the entire village, and their discipline and upbringing is a responsibility shared by the adults in the community. This was a principle Ace and other Samoan leaders returned to, visiting the families of gang members, and counseling and working with the young people involved. Atisa remembers that many of the kids were under the impression that being Samoan was all about talking tough and carrying guns. “Somehow they had gotten it into their heads that these gangs were a Samoan thing, and Ace showed them it wasn’t at all.”

Leroy also recalls his brother’s quiet generosity, which applied to his possessions as well as his time. “He always wanted to make sure everyone was okay. He did things behind the scenes that nobody really knew about. One family came up here and needed a place to stay, well he hooked them up with an apartment, gave them a car... He did that for a lot of people and he never would say a word about it. Ever since he died, people have been coming up to me and saying ‘You know what Ace did for me?’ He’d never mentioned any of it to me.”

Of all the things people remembers about Ace—his broad smile, his fondness for Elvis tunes, his secret salmon recipe, the skillful way he dribbled a basketball—it was Ace’s tremendous heart that impressed them most. They say there was a light inside of him that children picked up on, that allowed him to form strong bonds with kids within his family and beyond.

“Love radiated from him.” Leroy says. “I could feel it when he was with my children. It was a scary feeling, and it freaked me out at first... that’s just how he was when he interacted with other people, and I can’t do that. I’ll never forget that.”

* * *

Leroy and Ace often went dip-netting together. “When spring rolled around Chitina was all Ace thought about,” Leroy says.

The day before Ace died, he called his brother to tell him the rivers around Chitina were reportedly teeming with salmon and urge him to go dip-netting the next day. Ace knew the area well, and fished it often in the summer months, scooping up salmon with a net he had modified to allow him to stretch just a little further across the river.

Leroy declined his brother’s invitation. He had a baseball game and barbecue to attend. That night, Ace packed up his van with supplies, and two of his children, Sarah, 12 and Sam, 11. “Be safe,” Atisa remembers telling him as he left their home. But Ace was preoccupied with the vision of a freezer full of king salmon to feed the ten children in his house. “He left that day with my house keys and car keys in his pocket.” she remembers. Their son had to ride his bike to football practice the next morning, before Ace realized he had the keys and called to tell Atisa where to find the spare set.

The next morning, June 14, Leroy’s wife woke him earlier than usual. She told her husband she was changing his plans, that she didn’t like the idea of Ace going fishing alone. “She basically kicked me out of the house and put me in the truck... I drove up there a little upset with her.” As he neared Chitina, Leroy spotted Ace’s brown van on the side of the road. Ace was catching a quick nap. Leroy stopped to say hello, and the brothers drove the rest of the way up together.

The water rushed around their hip waders as they silently worked the nets against the river’s powerful current. The children, Ace’s two and Leroy’s son, played in the tall grass along the river bank. The fishing was slow. After a while, Ace tired of coming up empty with each pass, and told his brother he was going to try a favorite hole upstream, waving good-bye as he set off alone.

A short while later, Leroy spotted something floating in the river. Something big, moving swiftly with the current. “I saw something floating toward me, about 25 yards up, and I thought it was a tree at first, until I saw the color of the waders. I heard someone screaming Ace’s name, and then mine. ‘Tell me its not my brother’ I kept saying to myself’. But it was him, I could see him floating, face up, and he wasn’t moving.”

Ace’s body was carried away by the river, and has never been found. Although what happened that day remains unclear, his family agrees with the State Troopers’ conclusion that he fell into the river after suffering a coronary arrest. His big heart, they say, finally gave out. He was 50 years old.



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