From Fijilive (5 February 2000)

The following eulogy, by Colonel Paul Manueli, was delivered at the funeral service at Churchward Chapel in Suva yesterday.

TODAY we mourn the passing of a distinguished son of Rotuma. Josefa Emose Rigamoto - husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, relative and friend; long-serving government servant, soldier, administrator, leader and a highly respected member of the community.

Josefa Rigamoto was born in Rotuma on July 3, 1907. He was the eldest child of Emose (later Gagaj Tokaniua and Chief of Oinafa) and his wife Selina.

He had two brothers and three sisters. He received his early education in Rotuma before entering Queen Victoria School in 1914.

He completed his secondary education at Queen Victoria School and entered Government Service on May 7, 1924, as a Draftsman with the Lands Department.

This was the beginning of a career of dedicated service spanning a period of six and a half decades. He worked in the Lands Department until December 7, 1942, when he was released for Military Service with the Fiji Military Forces. He was first posted to the 4th Battalion.

He was promoted Lance Corporal on January 19, 1943, Corporal on February 16, 1943, and Sergeant on March 12, 1943. On March 12, 1944, Sgt Rigamoto embarked for overseas service in the Solomons with the 1st Bearer Company, Fiji Medical Corps, attached to the 3rd Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment.

He was decorated for gallantry. His citation for the Award of the Military Medal reads: "Particular fine work in organising rescue of wounded under enemy fire and difficult circumstances during the 3rd Battalion Operation on the Mawaraka River.

His energetic leadership and lack of thought for his personal safety was an example not only to his own bearers but all with whom he came into contact.

He returned to Fiji on August 4, 1944. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant and was discharged on April 18, 1945, on medical grounds.

I cannot help but feel that the doctors made a mistake for he lived for nearly 55 years after his discharge. Whatever the reason, it simply confirms a mental toughness in the man, the kind that helped him overcome fear in the heat of battle.

He returned to the Army briefly in 1946 to be part of the Fiji Contingent to the Victory Celebrations in London. In 1945 until his retirement from the Civil Service at the age of 60, he worked briefly with the Lands Department and served as District Officer Rotuma on more than one occasion.

But for most of that period he worked in the Native Land Trust Board and the Native Lands Commission. He worked closely with the late Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, travelled extensively throughout Fiji and gained valuable knowledge of Fijian land ownership.

He was able to put that knowledge and experience to good use during his later service with the Native Lands Commission. Following his retirement from the Civil Service in 1966, he was re-employed in the Native Land Trust Board until 1975 when he retired for the second time.

He was again re-employed as an Assistant Commissioner with the Native Lands Commission and much of his work involved the return to Fijian landowning units of Crown Lands Schedule A & B. In recognition of long, loyal and dedicated service, he was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen twice.

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1967 and was later promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1982. He was a man of many talents and interests. He had a keen interest in boxing during his school days. He played rugby for the Gaunavou team.

He played in a number of string bands. He was married to Jiuria Luise and they had six children. Josefa Rigamoto will be remembered for his many attributes - politeness, generosity, humour, modesty, humility, honesty and industry to name a few.

Indeed he epitomised the many virtues which we who live today would do well to emulate. He bore no one ill-will. He was a gentleman, highly respected by all who knew him.

He has gone the way all we mortals will eventually go. He will be missed. He will not be forgotten. We pray God receive him, keep him and grant him Eternal Peace.

Source: Fiji's Daily Post