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Byron Shire
April 20, 2024

Final farewell for Sam

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Yesterday saw more than a thousand people pack The Shed at Terranora’s Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School to celebrate the life of 16-year-old Kenyan student Samuel Mwangi Macharia, who drowned off Cabarita Beach earlier this month.

Members of Sam’s Kenyan family joined his Australian family, the Zietlows, their friends and the local community for the service.

Sam’s coach and coordinator of Tweed Council’s Kenya Mentoring Program, Olita Ogonjo, also made the special trip to join Sam’s Aussie ‘dad and mum’ Bernie and Sandra Zietlow, and their three sons Ricky, Kurt and Ryan to lay Sam to rest.

Most, if not all, mourners were moved to tears as Bernie, flanked by his family, read the eulogy for ‘our Sam, our son and brother, who gave us much more than we could have ever hoped to have given him’.

‘When Sam was doing something he loved – like swimming, dancing or playing football – he just radiated pure joy like a force field around him,’ Bernie said.

‘Sam had something that is missing in most Australian teenagers today and that is a quiet respect for all adults. This was evident in his politeness and gentle patience, and explains his close relationships with his grandparents, coaches, teachers and mentors.’

He concluded by saying, ‘We all knew a little boy from Kenya who changed our lives forever and made us better people. Thank you Sammy. We love you.’

Sam, a promising football player, came to Australia as an orphan five years ago under the mentoring program and was billeted by the Zietlows, who were in the process of adopting him when he drowned on Sunday 4 December. He would have turned 17 two days later and was just days short of his year-10 graduation at Lindisfarne School.

The families have asked people wanting to send flowers to make a donation instead to Sam’s legacy. Donations can be made at any Commonwealth Bank or online – BSB: 062 580, Account Number: 10231433.

Images: Bernie Zietlow delivers the eulogy flanked by Sam’s adoptive family; Bernie and Sam’s uncle Phillip Macharia carry his casket after the service.

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