Estates In Land

As Lena crossed the Pacific Ocean throughout her life, from Samoa, New Zealand and California, she harbored an inextinguishable passion for land, a legacy, perhaps, from her Samoan roots and as a principal heir of Rev. George Pritchard himself from England via Tahiti to Apia and finally to American Samoa at Leone. She determined early that each of her six children would have a safe mooring, or, failing that, at least a house. Scattered afar, all six children were together only once: at the wedding in 1955 of Frances to Bob Opelle. She bought houses for almost all of them, in Samoa, Hawaii, or California. Her son James’ biggest challenge as her trustee was to locate, research, itemize and appraise her grand and generous legacy.

Lena confronted two major obstacles: the Samoan statutes forbidding alienation of land to her children, who were not sufficiently native Samoan (51%), and therefore could not own the land, and their growing disagreements over the “equities” of her unequal distributions to them (see the Will Contest in Litigations); a partial effort at “fairness” was made in the 1969 Agreement. Some had money, others did not, or were, on and off, entirely dependent on her. The gross inequities of that Agreement persist to this day.  Sadly, the subsequent 1982 Agreement settled little, since poorly drafted by lawyers who failed to state what they obviously intended to do.

Lena dealt assertively with the ambiguities in her father Alfred James Pritchard’s estate, but was respectfully (or otherwise) silent about any bequest (see Talimatau) to “The Other Lena” — her half-sister, born to her father in the same year as herself, and adopted away to his brother, which led to great confusion. (see Family Tree) What she did not, or could not, inherit Lena bought from the wider Pritchard family and others.  Proud and patriotic, she did not complain when New Zealand confiscated her land at Faleolo, near Talimatau, Samoa, for defense purposes as an air base (now the civil airport) for World War II.  Everyone expected Ben was going to be Governor, after all, or so everyone surmised. She believed she would get it back when the war was over.  The Fagaiofu story is still unfolding.

While the hardworking Ben and Lena never left downtown Pago, where they lived over their store near the Satala warehouse, Lena created her “country estate” named Olo by patching 32 acres together at Taputimu Village, hoping one day her children could own it all. She rarely ventured to Olo, and, instead, sailed or flew across the Pacific Ocean between Pago Pago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, moving every 6 months to be near her faraway children for half the year.  Their house on Balboa Island was always full of her children and grandchildren.

The Satala Warehouse, long since sold to the Steffany Family, was strictly commercial; Olo was sometimes leased to BFK, Inc. or for other lease income purposes (the “Coke House”), completely ignoring the 1974 Land Planning Agreement. Mike has recently made new claims that he is owed (see Satala Math), from Satala Sale Proceeds and/or for Malaloa, and still litigates over Fuamete. Nothing is known about Taupou or Poata. About Taupou, Margaret said simply, with a shrug, “. . . he lost it to the Chiefs.”