Ninety-one years. It is an exceptional number of years for anyone to live, but then, "Uncle Ben" appears to have packed every one of those years with activity and public service to Guam and the United States in a unique and feisty style that went on to the end.
As his many relatives, friends and associates gathered at the Guam Congress building in Hagatna for his state funeral, Supreme Court Associate Justice F. Philip Carbullido, his neighbor in Piti for many years, remembered him in the eulogy.
"Mayor Ben was a member of our island's greatest generation, which endured horrific atrocities during the World War II occupation on Guam. He recounted that he was beaten by the enemy and shot during the battle for Guam's liberation in 1944. While the war would cause significant pain and suffering for Mayor Ben and thousands of Chamorro men and women, it also spurred in him a sense of duty and patriotism to serve his island and nation. These experiences during the war would help guide how he cared for his friends and his constituents in Piti."
Justice Carbullido recalled instances of kindness and service by Gumataotao to the village when he was well into his 70s, some calling for remarkable energy and courage.
"Mayor Ben was brave, a trait he learned during the occupation and honed during his service in the United States Navy. Ben was proud of his military service. In his 28 year career, he would attain the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer, the Navy's highest enlisted rank. While Mayor Ben's time in the Navy would pull him far away from home, he never forgot his roots or drifted far from our shore."
Justice Carbullido also fondly recalled Gumataotao's skill in the kitchen and his continuing desire to bring people together at the dinner table.
For years, Gumataotao offered advice as a consultant to the Guam Legislature and Guam Delegate Ben Blaz. Long after his official retirement, he decided to run for Piti Mayor, serving vigorously for 12 years and also actively participating in other governmental bodies, such as the Commission on Decolonization.