Family and friends of well-known Samoan resident Navy Epati are still coming to terms with his sudden death on Saturday afternoon.
49-year old Epati collapsed at the Rarotonga Golf course suffering a severe heart attack and passed away soon after the incident.
His death came as a huge shock to his family and friends who gathered together for support at the Rarotonga hospital on Saturday evening.
His good friend George George was still reeling from the news on Sunday afternoon as he along with members of the Samoan community rallied together to support the Epati family through this difficult time.
George said he was taking numerous phone calls from Epati’s friends from across the world who were searching for answers and news of their friend – a man they knew as extremely witty and a great problem solver.
Through his grief George said that as friends and family gathered together for strength at this time they reflected on a man that none of them had even seen angry.
“We have never seen him angry – this is a man I spent more time with than my wife and we couldn’t think of a time we had ever seen him angry,” said George.
“He took anger and turned it into something laughable.”
Epati was well known in his native home of Samoa and more so in his adopted home of the Cook Islands.
Epati is a former secretary of the Ministry of Marine Resources and his last post in the public sector was as the Public Service Commissioner.
He held the post for five years – a year longer than he expected when he finished in the job in September 2011 to accommodate for the new government settling in.
In sports – Epati was a talented athlete and sports administrator for local codes including rugby league and boxing.
In the 80s and 90s – Epati, nicknamed ‘Maroro’ (flying fish) was the speedy winger for the Tupapa A grade.
In 1990, Epati represented the Cook Islands in rugby sevens that took part in the Marist 7s Tournament in Samoa.
That team was captained by his good mate George George and included Donald Munro, Henry Iripa, Darren Piri, Rea Rea, Ewen Henry and Ben Koteka.
In the early 90s, Epati also played for the Cook Islands Rugby League team against BARLA (British Amateur Rugby League Association) and from that match he was also selected to play for the Pacific Islands Regional XIII.
In 2001, Epati was the chef de mission for Team Cook Islands to the Norfolk Island Pacific Mini Games.
He remained active in sports long after his prime and was feared on the golden oldies rugby field and enjoyed a round of golf or two a week.
Epati is survived by his Cook Islands wife Florence Kimi and their three children – daughters Jana and Maureen and son Aljermaine.
Cook Islands News along with the Cook Islands sports family pass on their deepest condolences to the Epati family for their tragic loss.