State of mourning
'He was the finest person I've ever known'
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News
Gov. Felix Camacho yesterday declared a state of mourning for Republican Sen. Antonio "Tony" Unpingco, who died unexpectedly at Guam Memorial Hospital Thursday evening at the age of 65.
U.S. and Guam flags are to be flown at half-staff until Unpingco is buried.
Lawmakers are consulting with Unpingco's family to determine the date of Unpingco's state funeral, said acting Speaker Eddie Calvo, who was Unpingco's running mate in the 2002 gubernatorial race.
"He's absolutely going to be missed. You can't find people like this anymore," said former Lt. Gov. Kurt Moylan, who worked with Unpingco during his administration and later in the Guam Legislature.
Moylan said Gov. Carlos Camacho gave Unpingco a job as a liaison in San Francisco, where for two years he recruited and encouraged educated people from Guam to return to the island to work in the local government.
Unpingco later was given a job as deputy director of the Department of Administration, Moylan said.
"I can only say this about him -- I know he was the finest person I've ever known, the most trusted and honest. Frankly, I loved him like a brother. ... I just can't believe he's gone," Moylan said.
Calvo said he is deeply saddened by Unpingco's death, and described him as a friend, colleague and mentor.
"I think the island has lost a great leader. He set an example for how to serve as a public servant, a true public servant, and he set examples of what a citizen of Guam should be," Calvo said. "The man loved his God, loved his family, and he worked to the last day. I mean, he went straight from session hall to the hospital. That's the epitome of a true public servant."
Democratic minority leader Sen. Judith Won Pat said, "I will definitely miss the man," adding that the Legislature will miss his experience and guidance.
"To me, he is the most gentle person. He's so soft-spoken. I've never seen him -- even at times in the 23rd (Legislature) when things were really bad -- he's never raised his voice," Won Pat said. "He's always been the peacemaker. He's able to get us to come together, and we've had great respect for him. I'm going to miss his jokes, I'm going to miss him being like a father image to me."
Won Pat said Unpingco was able to help lawmakers break deadlocks and resolve questions about parliamentary procedure. Now that he's gone, she said it is time for other lawmakers to "step to the plate" and learn to do what Unpingco has done.
"We are deeply saddened by this tremendous loss," Gov. Camacho stated yesterday. "Speaker Unpingco was a statesman, a family man and a man of faith, character and integrity. He was a man who served with generations of leaders and transcended to the current generation -- bringing with him wisdom, maturity, experience and leadership. He was the bridge between leaders of the past and present."
Camacho said he will always respect Unpingco, and he asked Guam residents to pray for Unpingco and show him the honor and respect he deserves.
"I am honored to have known and served with this great man and I am forever grateful for his leadership and the many sacrifices he made as a public servant," Camacho said.
Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said "Sen. Unpingco was a gifted leader and a dedicated statesman who contributed so much to our community. He was a staunch supporter of our veterans and our families.
"Today, we recall his passion for public service and the example he set for generations of leaders on our island for the years to come," Bordallo said. "We remember all of his efforts on behalf of our people, and we also commend his work as a member of the Guam War Claims Review Commission. Most of all he was a dear friend not just to myself, Deborah and Nicole, but to so many people on our island. My prayers are with Emily and the Unpingco family, and we will all miss Tony dearly."