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Orepa and Kaino Tauiliili

Contributed photos.

Orepa and Kaino Tauiliili are seen in this family photo. Kaino died in 2021 from COVID-19; Orepa died earlier this month.

Ioane Tauiliili jogged onto the court for the Chaparral High School volleyball team and briefly glanced toward the stands.

It was a road game across town at Spring Valley High, yet Tauiliili’s cheering section was 45 people strong. And they were vocal.

His relatives and friends from church weren’t going to miss a chance to give their support. They were following the lead of Orepa Tauiliili, who rarely missed the athletic events of her three sons.

Orepa in early March suffered cardiac arrest and lived for two weeks unresponsive in a coma. She died March 21. The game a few days later was Ioane Tauiliili’s first since his mom’s passing.

“They made me laugh more on the court,” the soft-spoken Ioane Tauiliili said. “I didn’t expect that many people. It helped take my mind off things.”

This isn’t the first time Ioane is dealing with the death of a parent. His dad, Kaino, died in August 2021 from complications of COVID-19.

Ioane nearly cried when seeing the support from friends at the volleyball match. He also nearly cried during a home game this week, when he glanced over to the spot where his mom always sat in the bleachers and realized she wasn’t there. Older brothers Joe and Wesley also played for Chaparral.

But Ioane remembered the teachings of his father and felt a sense of being calm. Once his father passed, it was up to the sons — about three years apart in age, with Ioane being the youngest — to care for their mother and work to pay for the family to live. Orepa’s poor health limited her from working.

Losing another parent was an unthinkable tragedy that nobody was ready for.

“My dad always told me, ‘One day, me and your mom will pass and you can’t sit there crying. You will have to step up and lead the family,’” Ioane said. “I took his teaching to heart.”

Ioane, 18, is a few weeks away from graduation and has a volleyball championship to chase. But from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily, he also works at a restaurant to help pay the family’s rent. It makes for some hectic weeks, but Ioane isn’t stopping.

His parents would have it no other way, he says, stressing how his mother repeatedly told him to finish school and be a great teammate and friend. The senior has a 3.2 grade-point average, he said.

“You start to question everything, but you can’t stop living,” he said. “I thought I lost everything when my dad died, but I couldn’t stop (fighting) because my mom needed me. “

After his mother’s cardiac event, Ioane would start his days at the Spring Valley Hospital visiting her. He would then attend school, practice and work before doing it all over again.

Along the way, he only told two others about the crisis, including volleyball coach Chris Sanders, who raved that his senior leader was able to manage the struggles at home with his responsibilities at school.

The coach was ready to listen, but Ioane wasn’t ready to talk. Instead, he simply wanted a few hours of competition each day to feel normal.

“He’s such a great kid and student,” Sanders said. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like him or doesn’t have anything nice to say about him. Just a one-of-a-kind kid and family.”

Ioane was hoping to play football at a junior college in the fall, but he is reevaluating what’s next with his brothers. First is finishing what he started with school, volleyball and work. And they still have to give mom a proper funeral.

Ioane has a big family and could share stories for hours about what makes them special, especially how his mother was always “my rock” and there every step of the way to give support.

His parents were originally from American Samoa, before they relocated to Northern California and ultimately settled in Las Vegas.

They raised their sons to work to make the world a better place and lift up their neighborhood, Ioane said. Most important: Family sticks together.

“I’ve got a great legacy to carry on,” Ioane said.

The family is doing an online fundraiser for funeral expenses. Those wishing to contribute can do so at

[email protected] / 702-990-2662 / @raybrewer21

Article written by #LasVegasSun