Revered for his abilities and beloved for his tenacity on the field, football remains a significant part of Mosi Tatupu’s legacy.
But for those closest to him, the athletic exploits represent just a fraction the whole.
"As amazing a football player as he was, he was 10 times greater as a human being," Linnea Garcia-Tatupu said of her ex-husband. "He was a wonderful person and he leaves a huge void. He left us too soon."
Tatupu’s prowess as a three-sport standout at Punahou School first thrust him into the public consciousness. It will be on that same campus where family and friends will gather today to remember and reflect in a service at Punahou’s Thurston Memorial Chapel.
Visitation starts at 12:30 p.m. with the service to follow at 1:30.
Tatupu spent most of his professional life and beyond on the East Coast — where he became a fan favorite over a 13-year career with the New England Patriots — through his death on Feb. 23 in Attleboro, Mass.
But "we had to bring him home," Garcia-Tatupu said. "This is where his heart is."
"When you think of Moose, you think of Hawaii," said Jack Wright, a friend and teammate of Tatupu’s since they met as eighth-graders at Punahou. "It’s going to be a very emotional day."
Friends and family members, many of whom flew in from the mainland, got together for a barbecue yesterday at Magic Island, and today’s designation on the calendar figures to add to the emotion of the service.
"It makes it that much more special," said Lofa Tatupu, Mosi’s son and a Seattle Seahawks linebacker. "I always did, but I’ll cherish Father’s Day that much more.
"I don’t like the term ‘memorial.’ it’s more a celebration. He lived a blessed life and I’m very fortunate to have had him as a part of my life."
Along with Lofa, Tatupu is survived by a daughter, Nea, and sons Clarence and Sam.
A member of the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, Mosi Tatupu claimed a storied place in prep football lore while rushing for a then-state-record 3,367 yards while also excelling in basketball and baseball for the Buffanblu.
After graduating with Punahou’s class of 1974, Tatupu contributed to a national championship at USC as a blocking back and returned to Hawaii for the 1978 Hula Bowl. He developed a devoted following as a special teams standout with New England and was back at Aloha Stadium for the Pro Bowl following the 1986 season.
"I am so grateful for the love extended to him every time he came back home," said Garcia-Tatupu, who first met Mosi at 16 while attending Radford. "I am so grateful he had a place where he was loved for who he was.
"The greatest thing anyone can do when they say his name is smile. That will be his legacy."
Lofa Tatupu followed Mosi’s path to USC and the NFL, and has so far earned three trips to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. And it was on those visits when his father’s impact on the local landscape became clear.
"People I talk to tell me, ‘You should have seen him play,’ " Lofa Tatupu said. "Having a chance to talk to the family and friends who are here and hear them tell the stories, it’s pretty incredible."
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to USA Football for the Mosi Tatupu Memorial Fund, which benefits youth football in American Samoa.
Donations can also be sent to USA Football, c/o Mosi Tatupu Memorial Fund, 8300 Boone Blvd., Suite 625, Vienna, Va. 22182.