Man with Alaska ties loses wife, son and in-law relatives in devastating Maui wildfires

Over $6k raised through Our Lady of the Valley Catholic School in Wasilla
Man with Alaska ties loses wife, son and in-law relatives in devastating Maui wildfires
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 9:42 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A man with Alaska roots tragically lost everything in the Maui wildfires that ripped through Lahaina last month, but one Alaska community is rallying to support him.

Sekonaia “Kona” Takafua lost his wife and son, 39-year-old Salote Tone and 8-year-old Tony Takafua, when they were trying to evacuate their Maui neighborhood.

A local newspaper reported the remains of Takafua’s wife and son — along with those of his wife’s parents, 70-year-old Faaoso Tone and 73-year-old Maluifonua Tone — were found in a burned car near their home.

Takafua was not ready to discuss the tragedy, but his aunt Esther Taliai in Wasilla spoke on the unfortunate circumstances that will eventually bring her nephew back to Alaska.

“They were not too far away from their homes when there is a gas station exploded and that’s ... you know they were right across the street from the gas station,” Taliai said.

Takafua, the lone survivor of his small family unit, was at work when the fires broke out but. The explosion at the gas station near the family home made it hard for Takafua to reach his family — and for them to escape the flames.

“They did not have any warning or anything and they were trying to get away,” Taliai said.

The names of Takafua’s four members of the close-knit Tongan family are included on the list of just under 100 people known to have died in the Maui fires. At 8 years old, Takafua’s son is likely the youngest person to perish.

But in the darkest moments of his life, friends and family in Alaska have rallied in support of Takafua.

Two of Takafua’s relatives attend Wasilla’s Our Lady of the Valley Catholic School, which has been able to help raise funds for Kona in his time of need.

“This was a case in which it was very obvious that ‘blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted’ and that’s how we reached out,” principal Joyce Lund said.

The school held a bake sale and in coordination with Sacred Heart Church, and was able to raise over $6,000 for the family.

“It’s relieved a lot,” Taliai said. “I was so happy that they were able and then I called Kona’s mom, she cried when I told her what the school is going to do and try to help out.”

It’s something the school community is eager to assist with, and

“These are our families. The two students who come to our school, these are their relatives — and I’ve always felt that the families at Our Lady of the Valley School, we’re one big family. We are connected, and when someone’s happy, we’re happy. When someone’s sad, we try to comfort,” Lund said.

Lund says the effort has been the most successful fundraising cause the school has been involved in, allowing them to deliver a check directly to the family for anything they need.

Takafua has been displaced ever since the fires, living temporarily in hotels. Following the funerals of his family members, he plans to moves to Utqiaġvik where his mother and brother live.