Farewell, Hans Joachim Keil!

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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HONOURING SERVICE TO SAMOA: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi presents the flag of Samoa to Celine Keil during the funeral of Hans Joachim Keil at Lotopa yesterday.

HONOURING SERVICE TO SAMOA: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi presents the flag of Samoa to Celine Keil during the funeral of Hans Joachim Keil at Lotopa yesterday. (Photo: Deidre Fanene.)

The life of Hans Joachim ‘Joe’ Keil was celebrated and honoured in a state funeral held yesterday for the former statesman, who was also a well-known philanthropist and prominent business man.

The Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II and his Masiofo, Her Highness Fa'amausili Leinafo paid their respects.

They were joined by former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi and his Masiofo, Her Highness Filifilia Tamasese, Members of the Council of Deputies, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, members of the business community and many more whose lives were touched by the late businessman’s generosity. 

Described by his wife, Celine Keil, as a complicated man who was both loving and loyal to his friends and family, Mr. Keil manifested many of those complexities into a very diverse and ambitious career.

He was a military man, a pilot, a politician and a commercial broadcaster.

However, the most revered position he held in the eyes of the community and loved ones was his high aptitude in the role of family man.

His Highness Tui Atua described Joe as ‘a truly beautiful human being’ and if one wanted to identify what defined Joe as a husband, father, son and brother, it could be embodied in the relationship that he had with his son, Nathan who by all accounts was his best friend and side kick. 

Wife Celine also attested to the famous, unique bond that existed between her husband and their only son, who was born with Down syndrome, but became the joy of their family – being the child that brought out the softer side of a tough, very driven and focused businessman.

She also spoke of how Joe was proud to raise very loving, intelligent and independent thinking women in his three daughters Violette, Bella and Katrina, and joked that perhaps the ‘independent thinking’ part sometimes worked against him but none-the-less he was a hero to his daughters.

Mr. Keil’s generosity of spirit was perhaps what he was most well known for and he was not one to boast, according to his daughters. 

Police officers carry the body of Hans Joachim Keil after his final service. Photo: Deidre Fanene.
Police officers carry the body of Hans Joachim Keil after his final service. Photo: Deidre Fanene.
Hans Joachim Keil
Hans Joachim Keil

Wife Celine said she never realized the immense scale of his generosity, until he passed away and their family have received an outpouring of tributes from people who were beneficiaries of his kindness. 

“Joe liked to support really good causes and community projects. He helped many folks without my knowing, I often found out,” she said. 

His pioneering entrepreneurship and belief in Samoa’s need for a stronger independent media led to the establishment of TV3, which was something that was not lost on those who were present, and his good friend. 

Former Deputy Prime Minister, Misa Telefoni Retzlaff, spoke of Mr Keil’s most ambitious venture and even as it was a struggling television broadcasting station – which took a toll on him – he was adamant that it would be taken over by those who valued press freedom and its vital role in a democracy.

“Without Joe there will be no TV3. Joe was willing to give TV3 away but only to some one he knew would carry the torch of fair and responsible reporting. I commend our P.M. who at the Observer’s 40th celebration observed that our society needs a strong and independent press to keep our people and institutions vibrant strong and most importantly accountable.”

For the Keil family, their most recent and fondest memory of their father was his reaction to seeing his homeland again after a year away in Utah in America, receiving treatment. 

His daughter Katrina said the last leg of her father’s journey was a tough one, beleaguered from a years’ worth of treatment and therapies and barely able to walk. But it was important for her father to take his last breath in the country he loved, she added. 

“It was hard for him but he wanted to make it back to Samoa. Sitting by his side on the plane, I remembered the look on his face as he looked over Samoa, smiling and relieved – that I will always remember. And when he landed he was so happy to be here to breathe the Samoa air and to see the people who were awaiting him.”

Hans Joachim Keil was laid to rest in Lotopa. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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