Guam- A state memorial service for Vicente “Ben” Gumataotao, the late former Republican Mayor of Piti just ended at the Guam Congress Building. Flags remain at half staff, and a color guard and dress-uniformed officers have accompanied the procession from the foyer following services, after dignitaries gathered inside the Antonio R. Unpingco Legislative Hall to pay last respects to the U.S. Navy veteran and public servant. Speaker Tina Muna Barnes called senators to session at 7:00 a.m. for this morning’s proceedings. The state service can be viewed on the Guam Legislature YouTube page.
Religious services for Mayor Gumataotao will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. inside the Assumption of Our Lady Catholic Church in Piti. Mass of Christian burial and internment is at Guam Veterans Cemetery in Piti at 2:30 p.m.
Gumataotao passed away in the Philippines at the age of 91 late last month. The retired U.S. Navy Master Chief was born in Sumay Village in 1927 and survived the attack on his hometown by Imperial Japanese forces in 1941. The village was subsumed by U.S. Naval Base Guam after World War II.
According to U.S. Naval Forces Marianas, during a visit to Sumay in 2010, Mayor Gumataotao expressed his gratitude to the Lord and to America for winning the war, as well as the fact that Sumay now serves as a platform for American defense at the heart of Naval Base Guam.
That same year the conservative mayor told Newstalk K57 that the people of Guam must share in the sacrifices necessary to keep the people of the island, the region, and the nation free. At that time, many on Guam were in an uproar over the Marine Corps targeting the ancient village of Pagat as a firing range.
“What you have to understand…when you mention national defense, what we’re talking about [is] a bigger picture,” Gumataotao then said.
“The bigger picture is that first you gotta compromise the idea about Pagat or whatever the Marines want to do in Guam to make sure that our national defense is being secured, so we’re not having any more of this treatment about North Korea or another country that is creating a terrible war. We have to be strong.”
Gumataotao was an outspoken WWII survivor who publicly shared his personal story of being shot during the Dec. 8, 1941 Japanese invasion and even beaten regularly by Imperial Japanese occupiers in wartime Guam.
Shortly after Gumataotao’s passing, Republican Party of Guam State Chairman Jerry Crisostomo praised the late mayor and retired ranking sailor lavishly for his service.
“Mayor Ben Gumataotao was a fearless and dedicated public servant who served the people of Piti as its mayor for over 12 years [and a] retired military veteran who served our nation with distinction, courage and integrity,” Crisostomo said.
“Former Mayor Gumataotao will be sorely missed as a guiding force for our local government and island; we salute his years of public service and express our deepest sympathies to his wife, Mrs. Toni Gumataotao and their children and grandchildren.”
The condolences overflowed from the other side of the aisle, as well.
“Lieutenant Governor-Elect Tenorio and I are saddened to hear of the passing of Former Mayor Vicente ‘Ben’ Gumataotao of Piti,” Democratic Governor-Elect Lou Leon Guerrero then said.
“Mayor Ben was a devoted statesman, veteran and a member of our island’s Greatest Generation. We join the people of Guam in honoring the life of Mayor Ben and we extend our sincerest condolences to his wife, Toni, their children and families.”
“More than a politician, Mayor Ben was fiercely dedicated to improving the quality of life for our people, most especially, his beloved residents of Piti,” Lt. Governor-Elect Joshua Tenorio said. “His advocacy on behalf of our island’s war survivors and veterans will be remembered by our entire community,”
Mayor Gumataotao’s son, Attorney Gary Wayne Francis “Frank” Gumataotao, expressed heartfelt gratitude to his stepmother for helping keep his father strong and devoted in his life of service.
“We are incredibly grateful for the love and devotion of my stepmother, Antonia Gumataotao, who enriched Dad’s life with purpose and energized commitment to family, church and community. She has been and continues to be our rock,” Gary Gumataotao said.