Months ago, I texted Frank Arriola. “Is Bruno back?” “Still in San Diego.” A few weeks later, I asked the same question. Same replay.
I swore I saw Bruno sitting on a bench in Tamuning. Just hanging. Enjoying the day. It was a happy sight.
We all have people in our brain registry that make us smile. Nice people surface good feelings.
John Thomas Benito was on my “good people” registry. Actually, he was on a lot of people’s registry.
He spent two years at FDMS with the class of ’79 before graduating from high school in San Diego. One would think his persona would be limited in reach for being here for a short spurt. But, no.
Bruno took his ticket above on March 6. We celebrated his life at St. Anthony’s. The church was full of folks from all walks of life. Relatives, classmates, friends, private sector, public servants – his Guam family - was present.
I walked in with his classmates John Rios, Ray Schnabel, Dan Tydingco, Mike Aguon. Judge Mike Bordallo was the techa. The choir were classmates and friends. Rich Sablan shared the eulogy.
Chuckles waved through the church as Rich shared memories.
Bruno was a giant – in height and in heart. He loved Guam. After graduating from San Diego State University, he came home. He joined the Pacific Family Finance family.
Bruno loved Guam’s food, people, things to do – fishing, golfing. He got his classmates to form a softball team – called F Troop – maybe three knew how to play as seriously as our island does. He got his classmates to play shuffleboard – where many people formed friendships that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
Bruno played football and basketball. Bruno played ukulele with Lemon Squares Band mates Gary, Dale, Tom. He, Rich and Steve Ruder helped with the boxing federation – where he enjoyed mentoring kids. He volunteered with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. He loved to barbecue. And, he knew the best places to eat. He was a natural at discovering and making connections.
When his obituary came out, I emailed Steve Ruder. Steve was named an adopted brother. Nice! Steve shared one of the reasons he made Guam his home was because Bruno cared for him like a big brother. Throughout the mass, I watched Steve as he bowed his head. I imagined countless snapshots going through his mind.
Bruno would do that – make sure you felt welcomed and included. I didn’t see him often but when I did, it was fun, funny and genuine. He worked hard and he played hard – that was the modus operandi of the class of ’79. As a brotherhood – they keep an eye out for one another and their families– solid expectations and wrap around support. Bruno was godfather to 12.
Bruno was a private person. But he shared a love of life that inspires. Especially during a time when restrictions are the rule, memories that stir up joy are a life line. Memories of love and laughter anchor us when life seems incredibly dismal.
Bruno was diagnosed with brain cancer at Christmas 2014 – that’s a long stretch. Classmate Father Paul spoke of that time to connect with Christ – to get a sense of God’s plan and to trust, to have faith.
Surely, not an easy plan. We appreciate Yuka Baba, his partner, for her strength and love. Having a buddy ride shotgun makes a huge difference, particularly when times are tough.
We thank his family for sharing Bruno. We thank his classmates for showcasing the best of people. We thank God for having him rest in peace. We thank Bruno for being a Guam giant.
Seeing him on that bench may have been an apparition, but I’ll take it as a way of Bruno checking in. Thanks, guy. I needed that.
May we all spark a smile the way Bruno did. Our life needs it.
Cheers, Bruno! Love and laughter!
Aline Yamashita is a mom, a teacher and former senator. She served in the 31st and 32 Guam Legislatures. You may write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.