'Uncle Wally' devoted life to Oceanside High School
UNION-TRIBUNE COMMUNITY NEWS WRITER
May 6, 2006
OCEANSIDE – He was known as Coach Molifua, and many called him Uncle Wally at Oceanside High School, where he taught and coached for nearly three decades.
Wally Molifua mentored hundreds of kids on campus and off.
A year ago, after fighting cancer, he died of a heart attack at the age of 53.
On a day the City Council declared Wally Molifua Day, Oceanside High School dedicated its newly renovated $7 million gym in his honor last weekend in a ceremony attended by national, state and county leaders.
“He'd probably find all this embarrassing,” said his wife, Davyne Molifua. “Sure, he'd be thrilled and honored, but he'd say, 'What, me?' ”
Molifua said her husband never wanted to make a big deal about anything he did.
But it was a big deal to the people who knew him. “He influenced the lives of so many here on campus and in the community,” said John Carroll, head varsity football coach at Oceanside High School.
When students were having problems, they sought out Molifua, and he would put them back on the right path, Carroll said.
He gave them courage and opened doors they thought were shut, said his sister, Sili So'oto, who works as a teacher's aide at Oceanside High School.
“He came from humble beginnings and could relate to those who felt downtrodden,” she said.
So'oto recalled times when her brother let homeless people stay in his office and often helped them find jobs.
“Between his church activities and teaching here, it was easy to identify him as someone like an uncle. He treated people like family,” said Pat Kimbrel, the high school's athletic director.
Oceanside High graduate Frank Zimmerman came back to teach at the school because of Molifua.
“He was my idol when I was a kid. I wanted to impact lives like he did,” said Zimmerman, who teaches video production and runs the media services department at Oceanside High.
Molifua coached Zimmerman in freshman football and varsity soccer. He also brought Zimmerman over to his church sports teams.
“He made me feel part of his family – everyone was welcome in his family,” said Zimmerman, who also coaches varsity soccer at Oceanside High.
“I wanted to grow up and be like him, but I'll never fill his big shoes.”
Molifua and his family came to Oceanside from Hawaii when he was 3 years old. The family grew to include 11 brothers and sisters. His father died when Molifua was 16.
Molifua played football at Oceanside High School and graduated in 1969. After attending MiraCosta College, he got a football scholarship to Brigham Young University, where he was coached by Lavell Edwards.
He came back to Oceanside and his alma mater in the late 1970s.
He taught several subjects, including science, physical education and drivers education and coached many sports, eventually becoming varsity football coach for the Pirates.
“Wally was all about this high school,” Zimmerman said.
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