Obituary for Saini Pele Atoa Schwenke
May 28, 1932 – April 12, 2016
Home is where the heart is. And that is why we can say with a surety that our dear queen, Saini Pele Atoa Schwenke, is at long last finally home. Our beloved mother, grandmother, sister, aunty, and friend reunited with her heart, Arthur Olive…read more
Obituary for Saini Pele Atoa Schwenke
May 28, 1932 – April 12, 2016
Home is where the heart is. And that is why we can say with a surety that our dear queen, Saini Pele Atoa Schwenke, is at long last finally home. Our beloved mother, grandmother, sister, aunty, and friend reunited with her heart, Arthur Oliver Schwenke, on April 12, 2016. She was 83 years old.
Following the passing of her husband of 65 years just eight months ago, Saini yearned for her sweetheart and often talked of going home to their beloved Samoa to be with her “King Arthur”. After months of pain and perseverance, her prayer has been answered. “Queen Mum” is now resting in that heavenly home, embraced by her companion, where love is eternal and families are forever.
Saini Pele was born to Atoa Polito and Fa’agutu Tugaga on May 28, 1932 in Tuaefu, Upolu, Samoa. She is the 9th of 10 children, and is survived by her youngest sister, Loloma Johnston. As one of the youngest in the family, Saini was raised like a princess. She loved to play, joyed in time spent with friends at St. Mary’s Catholic Sisters School (especially her basketball team), and grew to become one of the most fashionable young ladies in Samoa.
Her beauty and grace captured the attention of Arthur Schwenke at a youth dance. Of him, she said, “Arthur was not my first boyfriend … but he was my best boyfriend I ever met and I knew he was the best, good man for me.” A year and a half later, on June 10, 1950, they were married. Because Arthur was her everything, there was no question for Saini that she needed to join her husband in his faith. She was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on July 2, 1950. They made their marriage and family an eternal one in the Hamilton New Zealand temple on January 4, 1961.
For employment, Saini worked for a time at H&J Retzlaff with her husband and later as the secretary to the principal of The Church College of Western Samoa. She also spent time working at Beehive Travel and Tours, a family business co-owned by the Stehlins, Atoas, and Uncle Charlie Schwenke’s family. One of her favorite “jobs” was serving alongside her husband in the Apia, Samoa temple. But her most valued title and position was the one she held at home as wife and mother.
Saini gave birth to eight children, but was a mother figure to many, many more. The Schwenkes raised their family in Pesega, and became beloved “parents” to all who lived in that area during the decade in which Arthur served as bishop of the Pesega 1st Ward. She supported her husband in his dedication to the Lord and led by example in teaching what it means to love a spouse, to sacrifice for children, and to serve family always.
Arthur and Saini spent their adult lives helping to care for their widowed mothers. After Saini’s mother passed away, she pleaded with her husband to move to the United States to be closer to her heartbeats – her children and grandchildren.
Leaving paradise in 1985, they sacrificed their lives of comfort in Samoa to be closer to their children and grandchildren. While life wasn’t always easy, to her it was worth it because she was with her family.
In America, she quickly became a frequent shopper at her favorite store, Ross, to stay up to date with the latest fashions. She loved to pamper herself with Mary Kay, manicures and pedicures. And, even at age 83, none of us ever saw her with a full head of white hair. She was one of the most beautiful women you ever saw. She had a sense of humor and sweetness that made everyone fall in love with her. She was the grandma who always remembered your birthday and sent you a birthday card with money in it and told you to go and buy some ice cream. She was the great-grandma who lived for kisses from her babies and beamed with pride at their accomplishments. While our Pops was known for his faith in God and being our family’s rock, she was most definitely our heart.
After laying her dear husband to rest in August of 2015, just two months later, Saini underwent surgery to repair a leaking valve in her heart. While she hated hospitals and needles, she did the surgery for her family. She wanted to be here for us. During that surgery, we almost lost her and when she awoke she was changed because of several strokes. For months she fought back, relearning how to talk, how to swallow, how to stand and how to walk. Before our Pops passed, he said he was worried about leaving Mum because he had always done everything for her. In the long months of her recovery, our Queen Mum proved that she could do anything. She showed us what courage looks like. She showed us what determination looks like. She showed us what love looks like.
In the hospital, she was the most popular patient – always polite, always trying and brightening the room with her beautiful smile. She always had a room full of family and friends (often standing room only) and hospital staff often remarked that she must be one special, incredible lady to be so loved. She most definitely is.
In her final months, Saini was lovingly cared for by all of her dear children, Alvin (Ramona), Sam (Sandra), LaVon (Ricki), Lorrine (Scott), Art (Diana), Ula (Clement), Oliver (Fina), and Max (Leticia). She leaves behind a legacy of strength and love to 27 grandchildren, and 31 great-grandchildren.
She is now embraced on the other side by her parents, and her beloved siblings, Elialia, Atoa Douglas Falelaufai, Tagaloa George, Rosabel Faagata, Eva Leota, Ella Misa, Tufuga Samuelu and Sinisini.
Before her passing, she often thought of returning to her beloved Samoa, her heaven, and her eternal love. She shared special moments in which she said she could literally feel her husband’s cheek on hers, his arms wrapped lovingly around her in a warm embrace, and his strong hands leading her as she walked step by step. Pops was her guardian angel. Now she is ours.
To all the “agelus” who cared for her, who visited her, who called her, who prayed for her, who loved her – fa’afetai lava from the bottom of our hearts.
Memorial services for Saini Schwenke will be held on Saturday, April 16, 2016 at the LDS Chapel located at 22721 S. Main Street in Carson, Calif. The viewing will start at 9am followed by a family service from 10am-11:30am. She’ll then be taken home to her final resting place alongside her husband in Tuaefu, Upolu, Samoa. Together forever, just as it should be.
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