"I am not going to feel sorry for myself. I’m 55 years old and I enjoyed 54 years of my life. There’s always a point when you have to accept that it’s the end,” CNMI Sports Hall of Famer Jess Wabol told TAGA Sports when he was featured in the magazine’s April-June edition.
The end for the beloved leader of the local sports community came yesterday morning, as he succumbed to a lingering illness.
“We were saddened to learn of the passing of Jess Wabol this morning. Jess was a member of the CNMI Sport Hall of Fame and a long-serving member of our Board of Directors. Jess represented the CNMI at the Pacific Games nine times, and was a local legend in the sport of golf, and a pillar in the sporting community. We will miss his friendship and his wise counsel. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time,” Northern Marianas Amateur Sports Association president Michael White said in an email to Saipan Tribune.
“It was a sad day for our family, he is my nephew, for the sports community, for the Refaluwasch Golfers Association,” Tony Rogolifoi said.
Rogolifoi said Wabol founded RGA with a couple of veteran golfers in the early 80s. Wabol was the group’s president for several years before he slowed down last year, as he had to undergo dialysis at the Commonwealth Health Center due to kidney failure.
“Though he was sick and not playing anymore, he always checked on us at RGA and made sure the club is still active and holds its regular tournaments. We will definitely miss his leadership. It’s really hard to accept that we lost a very good man. Our sympathy and prayers go to his wife (Vivian) and daughters (Jessmin and Tini),” said Rogolifoi.
While Rogolifoi and the rest of the members of the sports community and those who knew Wabol are still in shock of his passing, the veteran parbuster had seemed to have accepted his fate since he retired last year.
“I’m just saying that the older you get, your life span is getting shorter. My childhood friend Tony Satur, after he learned about my condition, freaked out. He asked me if I was scared of dying and I told him ‘If God tells you you’re next tomorrow and you say ‘no,’, you have no choice, you’re going tomorrow, right.?”
Both Wabol and Satur played softball on Saipan and then switched to golf. Wabol was also into baseball and basketball and coached Little League teams. In golf, he won numerous local tournaments in the 1990s and was still a force to reckon with several years ago before his illness slowed him down. Wabol tied Guam’s Louie Sunga in the most wins (Championship Flight) in the prestigious Tournament of Champions, prevailing in the annual competition in 1999, 2000, 2006, and 2007.
The member of the CNMI Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2009 was also into community service, as he designed a tournament under RGA’s calendar with its proceeds donated to schools and other groups in need.