Family and friends remember longtime BYUH employee and alumnus Opura Mo’o for his life of love and service
Written by
LeeAnn Lambert
Image By
The Mo'o family

Called a hard-working carpenter who could fix anything, a family man and a man of God, Opura Mo’o Sr.’s family and friends gathered on Feb. 6 at the Laie Hawaii North Stake Center to celebrate his life. He passed away on Jan. 16, 2019 in Kahuku.

Born in French Polynesia on Sept. 20, 1939, Mo’o left home as a teenager and went to four years of high school in Tonga, served a proselyting mission in the Tahiti Papeete Mission, much of the time on the island of Moorea. He then graduated from Church College of Hawaii, now known as BYU–Hawaii, served as a stake labor missionary while in college, got married to his sweetheart, Victoria, raised a family, and served in the Church in a variety of callings. He retired from BYUH after 35 years working from 1967 to 2002, and was the temple president of the Kona Hawaii Temple.

“By his hands, he knew how to repair a broken chair, but he also knew how to mend a broken heart,” said grandnephew and BYUH alumnus Dylan Wilcox, at the service. “By his hands, he held us as children and even his children’s children. By his hands, he gave many father’s blessings. By his hand, we learned about the scriptures, as he dutifully read them. But the greatest thing built by his hands is his family. He will always be, in my mind, the greatest example of Christ-like service and discipleship. Thank you, Uncle, for everything.”

Wilcox explained each of Mo’o’s grandchildren would take a turn at his service, oldest to youngest, to share something about him.

His granddaughter, Jabrielle Ulima Mauai, said, “Papa was a master of many things.” She said he radiated joy and laughter to those around him, but especially for his wife. “Love you for eternity,” she said, adding his spirit will always be with their family.

Granddaughter Reiko Ah Quin said everything in the Thirteenth Article of Faith sums up her Papa. “He loved it and lived it,” she said. “Thank you, Papa. Thank you for your love, for your time and your example you set for us.”

Grandson Jarren Ulima talked about working to build things with his Papa. He said Mo’o was an excellent carpenter who didn’t feel a job was done right unless everything was level. After working on a house with Papa and learning how to do things right, he said, “Now I am able to it by myself because he taught me.”

Another granddaughter, Kainoa Ah Quin, said what she remembers most is “Papa and Mama go together like peanut butter and jelly. They were selfless and loving.” For example, Papa would cut his meal in half to share it with Mama, his eternal companion, she said.

Mosese Mo’o said his grandfather was a great example of a priesthood holder because no matter what condition he was in, he still went out and served others and testified of Jesus Christ’s atonement and resurrection.

Grandson Jacob Ulima said Papa was dedicated to the gospel of Jesus Christ and they would often catch him reading the scriptures. They would sit beside him and feel the spirit, he said.

Granddaughter Tia-Marie Mo’o said her most favorite thing about Papa was him playing the ukulele, singing and laughing with them. “Papa really was the best Papa,” she said.

Giving the eulogy at Mo’o’s services was his longtime friend, Tekehu Munanui, who, along with Mo’o, left Tahiti in their teens to go to a Church school in Tonga. Munanui said the boys were sponsored by a missionary in Tahiti to attend Liahona High School, but they also worked hard to pay for their own room and board. Early each morning, he said, Mo’o and he would gather all the cows, milk them, and then distribute the milk to the faculty first and then the students.

“We did that work for years,” Munanui said, including when everybody else went home, “we stayed to help with the cows.” They stayed there for four years with only letters for communication between them and their families, and he said the letters could take months to get to them.

“Imagine how hard it was for a teenager to be away from home and not speaking to them,” Munanui said. “I love this man. He is like a brother to me. Alone in Tonga, we helped and supported each other.”

“Tonga became a special place because of the love he received from the Tongan people and gave to them,” Munanui continued. He said Mo’o was able to go back to Tonga and visit “the people and the places he loved” before he left this mortal existence. “I envy him because he was able to do that.”

Munanui said later in his life, Mo’o was called to be a bishop of a married student branch at BYUH. “He is a man who served the Lord. This was passed on to his children and grandchildren” who he said have become missionaries, Eagle Scouts and gone on to college.

In 2008, Mo’o and his wife were called to be the president and matron of the Kona Hawaii Temple, Munanui said. “Those were memorable years,” he said. The Mo’os built a house in Waimea and cared for his mother in law until her passing in 2011. After serving at the Kona Temple, he said, they returned to Laie.

Also speaking at Mo’o’s service was Earl Veloria, the president of the Kona Hawaii Temple just prior to Mo’o. Veloria said Mo’o and his wife were like warriors serving the people of Kona. “A great warrior has fallen,” said Veloria of Mo’o’s passing. But he added death comes as a friend to those who understand they will live again, be reunited with their loved ones and can become like Heavenly Father. “We know God has a plan for us,” he said.

Laie 6th Ward Bishop Curt Okimoto said of Mo’o that another local celebrity has retuned back to Heavenly Father. “Growing up in Laie 6th Ward, he was like my second father,” Okimoto said. “We couldn’t get away from him,” he joked, “because he was always in Young Mens. He was a prime example of serving others.”

Okimoto said Mo’o “had a million-dollar smile... that makes you feel loved in his presence.” He said Mo’o worked from sunup to sundown and would often have the youth in the ward work from sunup to sundown with him.

“He was always looking out after me and my family,” Okimoto said. He shared a time when Mo’o had noticed a concrete window sill needed repairing on Okimoto’s house and asked Okimoto if he needed help fixing it. Okimoto said no, adding he and his sons could repair it because Mo’o had taught all the boys in the ward how to make home repairs.

Okimoto said he grew up close to the Mo’o family because their son, Maurice, was his best friend. “I spent a lot of time in their home: Family home evenings, prayers, and advice he thought went in one ear and out the other, but it stuck with us.” For Okimoto, he said Mo’o was “a legend in my eyes and played a huge role in who I am through the lessons I learned from him.” He urged people to live their lives like Mo’o did.

Leading the “Aloha Oe” at the end the services was Mo’o’s son-in-law Moot Ah Quin, the son of legendary local singer Joe Ah Quin. That was followed by a Tahitian drum and dance performance on the lanai of the Stake Center before Mo’o was buried at Temple Valley in Kaneohe.

He is survived by his wife, Victoria; his children, Kehaulani Ah Quin, Opura Mo’o Jr., Tamara Ulima Soliai, Teriimana Mo’o, and Maurice Mo’o, their spouses, grandchildren, great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

Date Published
February 27, 2019
Last Edited
February 27, 2019