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‘Pues adios, Joe, adios, adios’

Post by Scott Fontaine on Aug. 28, 2009 at 5:12 pm with No Comments »
August 28, 2009 5:14 pm

crisostomofuneralTo fellow soldiers, Army 1st Sgt. Jose Crisostomo was a war-tested veteran who proudly served his country.

To Chamorros, he was a leader of the relocated Guam community who did everything from organizing fiestas to raising youth scholarship money.

To his family, he was Papa. And now, the man known to most everyone as Sinbad, is their “angel.”

“Papa, my heart hurts knowing you won’t be alive,” his teenage granddaughter Amalia said Friday during a tearful memorial service at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church in Spanaway, her grandfather’s flag-draped casket a few pews away. “Hu guiya hao, papa. (I love you.)”

Crisostomo died Aug. 18 when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan, less than two weeks before his 60th birthday.

The veteran and native of Inarajan, Guam, re-enlisted for active service early last year, and had recently chosen to do another tour, his family said.

The longtime Spanaway resident first joined the Army in 1969 and had served almost 25 years before retiring in 1993. Most recently, he served with the International Security Assistance Force.

“My father loved the military,” said Tricia Crisostomo-Meyers, his daughter.

Friday’s gathering paid tribute to his military service and Chamorro heritage.

The church exterior was lined with Patriot Guard Riders holding American flags. By 9:30 a.m., a crowd of about 200 stood in silence waiting for the body to arrive. Another motorcycle group with the name “Che’Lu Riders” (Chamorro for “Brother Riders”) on their backs roared to the ceremony.

Crisostomo’s family wore white shirts with red, white and blue armbands. A group of men wearing black T-shirts saying “Grupun Minagof” carried the casket inside the church for viewing.

Grupun Minagof is a local service group of Chamorros. Crisostomo served much of the last decade as president.

Inside, a line of people stretched outside to view the body. By the time mass began, the crowd grew to about 400.

The kids talked about their stern but loving upbringing, as Crisostomo always encouraged them to lead a better life than his.

“It’s hard to miss my father because he left behind a family to be proud of,” recalled his son D.J.

His grandkids also recalled their time with their Papa ­ how he was a huge Mariners fan and how he used to catch birds with them.

Son Jay Crisostomo described how his dad, known as a handyman and a guy’s guy, would always request “one for the road” when drinking beer or barbecuing with his buddies.

During the traditional offertory of gifts, the family presented a toolbelt and an 18-pack of Budweiser, in addition to bread and water.

By early afternoon, the crowd made its way to Fir Lane Funeral Home. With Fort Lewis Brig. Gen. Jeff Mathis in the crowd with Crisostomo’s family, they said their final goodbyes. Some released balloons.

“See you, Joe!” said one member of Grupun Minagof, as a string of balloons resembling a rosary soared into the sky.

Army soldiers gave a rifle salute, as well as the traditional rendition of “Taps.”

Jay Crisostomo gave a sendoff his dad surely would have appreciated.

“I want you to know you’ve done your family proud, and the whole island of Guam,” he said.

“You can’t leave us yet, dad. You’ve still got one for the road,” his son added, before he and others in the audience cracked open a beer.

In the end, a group of singers strummed the Chamorro rendition of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”

The final line: “Pues adios, Joe, adios, adios.”

So goodbye, Joe, goodbye.

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