One thing was made clear as hundreds mourned together for slain Newark student Osana Futi Friday, it was clear he was known for many characteristics.
Caring, happy, dedicated, loving, physical, a workaholic and spirited.
Those were just some of the one-word descriptions students and staff had about the 18-year-old who died three weeks ago from a violent stabbing in Fremont. An 18-year-old Fremont man has been .
“He’s indescribable,” one student said.
When English teacher Clare Alcott learned that Futi – along with half of the football team – was going to be in her first period class, she knew she was in for some fun.
Futi was a leader, she said. So much of a leader that he would start loud football chants in class for fun and even convinced her to hold a dance off; one in which mainly ended up in him being the only one dancing, she recalled.
“It was just Osana making sure everyone was having a good time,” Alcott said. “Between his goofiness and his boombox backpack, I think everyone just loved to be around him.”
But there was more to the soon-to-be graduate with the big hair and big smile that caught the teacher’s attention. Alcott said while Futi was known for being carefree, he intelligent and genuinely caring. He’d often help a classmate who is a special needs student with her belongings or moving her desk, Alcott said.
“I think of Osana as a protector,” Alcott said. “He just had this ability to make people feel safe, to make people feel valued.”
More than a football player
Born in America Samoa, Futi came to Newark at the age of 11 and relatives have said football was in his blood.
Since arriving, he has lived with his aunt Soliafoli Ieremia whose sons were also football players. So it was no surprise that Futi also joined the football team and was named 2011 Defensive Player of the Year.
But Athletics Director and Football Coach Rich Swift said Futi was more than just a football player on the Cougars team. He kept spirits high off the field and played hard on it, Swift said.
But his death was heartbreaking for the longtime coach.
“I never felt a rage like that ever,” Swift said of learning about Futi’s killing.
Swift said after Futi’s best friend and former teammate Justice Afoa was stabbed to death in Newark in December 2010, Futi was “wrongfully expelled” and many gathered to fight the Newark Unified Board of Education’s decision.
It was a fight they won, and a fight that was not initiated because Futi was a good football player, Swift said. It was a fight that community members fought because ‘he’s a good person,” Swift said.
“He has a good heart,” he added.
Memories and lessons from an uncle
Bryan Sao remembers the first time he met his nephew vividly.
“[He was a] chubby, slanted eyes, overweight kid who barely spoke English when came from Samoa,” Sao said.
And while Sao said Futi was a troubled kid because he had lost his father at a young age, Sao said he related to him because he, too, grew up without a father figure. So, he took on a fatherly role.
“He referred to me as his uncle – a title of honor that I will be proud of and cherish,” Sao said.
The night before Futi’s death, Sao said he actually spent the night sleeping in his nephew’s bed and that when his nephew came home in the morning, they spent the whole day together.
“That day, I actually really, really got to see how far he came from that little kid,” Sao said.
Sao said while friends of Futi might remember him as a protector who could appear intimidating, fighting and resorting to violence does not make you tough. He said that isn’t what made Futi tough.
“When you’re 10 and you don’t know English, and you learn English. That’s tough,” Sao said. “Tough is not having your father around. … Doing the thing that’s not always the popular thing to do. That’s tough.”
Sao said if there is one thing he wants Newark’s youth to take away from his nephew’s death is to learn to forgive.
“To the man who took my nephew’s life, I forgive you,” Sao said. “And that’s tough.
“Learn to forgive. That’s really what’s tough,” he said.
Since Futi’s death, the Newark community has come together in prayer and support. Many have helped raise funds for the student’s memorial services. And all of these efforts are deeply appreciated, Sao said.
“It’s your kind words, stories, generosity and prayers that have helped us cope with the loss of a son, brother, nephew, cousin, and friend.”
Futi’s body will be transported to America Samoa where he was born and where his biological mother and extended family reside on May 17.
Relatives said they also plan to fill a memory box full of personal belongings and remembrances of Futi – including his cap and gown – and place it at a burial site at the Chapel of Chimes in Hayward. The date for that memorial service has not yet been set.
Donations can still be made. Those who would like to donate can visit any Wells Fargo bank and deposit the donation to the Osana Futi Memorial Fund, account no. 8201800763 or visit WePay here to submit your donation online.
For more information on how to donate, contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-719-0333.