Von Tresckow “Paul” Patu, a longtime advocate for Seattle’s South Pacific Islander immigrant community and a Seattle Public Schools community liaison, has died.

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For more than half his life, Von Tresckow “Paul” Patu did everything he could to persuade Seattle’s young South Pacific Islanders to stay in school. Mr. Patu calmed student disturbances, mended relationships between sometimes-sparring minority communities and, according to his family and friends, never budged from his trademark good humor during 30 years as a community liaison for Seattle Public Schools.

Mr. Patu, a native of the island of Tonga and husband to Seattle School Board member Betty Patu, died Tuesday of kidney failure. He was 70.

Mr. Patu was born Oct. 30, 1944, to a pair of successful business owners in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, one of a chain of tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean near the coast of Australia. He spent his early life in Tonga before his father sent Mr. Patu and his two brothers to high school in California.

There Mr. Patu met Betty, a Samoan native who would later become his wife.

“My mom decided that he would be the right husband for me,” said Betty Patu, who has served on the School Board since 2009. “She kind of set it up.”

Mr. Patu married Betty in California on Jan. 7, 1967. He served five years in the Air Force and also briefly designed airplane wings before the couple and Betty Patu’s parents moved to Seattle in 1972.

In Seattle, Mr. Patu started a coalition of people to bring housing, health-care and job services to Pacific Islander immigrants drawn to the area by family ties and the hope of better job opportunities.

Living conditions for Pacific Islanders at the time were dire, Betty Patu said. Multiple families shared a single apartment. Few spoke English.

Mr. Patu, who spoke English and three Pacific Islander languages, served as a community liaison with the city and quickly became an asset as Seattle tried to handle a growing number of immigrants from the islands, Betty Patu said.

“He didn’t take no for an answer,” she said. “If something needed to be done, he would keep pushing until he (got) it.”

In the early 1970s, Mr. Patu helped calm a clash between Samoan and African-American students at Sharples Junior High School by meeting separately with each group’s parents.

Shortly after, Seattle Public Schools hired him to coordinate services for South Pacific Islander students, a role he filled until retiring in 2003.

King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, a longtime friend of the Patu family, said Mr. Patu was an unpretentious worker who always wanted to help.

“He’s helped hundreds of young kids return to school, to stop skipping,” Gossett said.

Mr. Patu was proud that all five of his children graduated from high school and received college degrees, said his daughter Virginia Owens.

“He himself is a living witness to what education can do for you,” Owens said. “He just knows that it leads to a better life.”

Mr. Patu attended city and school-district meetings even after retiring, Owens said.

In 2008, Mr. Patu underwent emergency surgery after a stroke and brain aneurysm. He died at home in his sleep Tuesday.

Along with his wife, Betty, and daughter Virginia Owens, Mr. Patu is survived by daughter Annie Patu, daughter Matelita Jackson and husband Mandel Jackson, son Paul Patu and wife Shantel Patu, son Saul Patu and wife Alana Patu, 22 grandchildren, one great-grandchild, sisters Virginia Samuelu and Nina Scanlan and brother Sam Patu.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. March 9 at the Church By The Side of the Road in Tukwila. Remembrances may be sent to the Von Paul Memorial Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 78317, Seattle, WA 98178, or online at http://www.gofundme.com/vonpaulscholarship.