Welcome home, Gov. Inos

Pallbearers from the Department of Public Safety lead government officials and family members toward a waiting hearse soon after the casket carrying the remains of the late governor Eloy S. Inos was offloaded from a Delta Air Lines plane last Friday afternoon at the Francisco C. Ada Saipan International Airport. (Dennis B. Chan)

Pallbearers from the Department of Public Safety lead government officials and family members toward a waiting hearse soon after the casket carrying the remains of the late governor Eloy S. Inos was offloaded from a Delta Air Lines plane last Friday afternoon at the Francisco C. Ada Saipan International Airport. (Dennis B. Chan)

The late governor Eloy S. Inos arrived home last Friday afternoon to a somber welcome led by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, government leaders, off-island dignitaries, and relatives at the tarmac of the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport.

After, his remains were carried by hearse and accompanied by a miles-long motorcade from the airport to the Borja Funeral Homes in Oleai, where they will remain until Inos’ funeral tomorrow, Tuesday.

Inos, who died in a Seattle hospital last Dec. 29 (CNMI time) at the age of 66 due to complications from diabetes, flew in on a Delta Air Lines flight.

On Friday, members of the CNMI Judiciary arrived at the airport aboard a bus at 2pm. Within half an hour, buses carrying the rest of government officials and Cabinet member arrived.

When the Delta flight was spotted in the sky coming in south of the airport, officials—wearing mostly black or formal white tops with black ties—surged to the edges of the designated waiting area set off by airport officials to look on.

The plane landed at about 3:15pm. Two fire trucks on opposite sides of the runway shot cannons of water into the air, forming a glistening arc through which the plane passed on its way to the airport’s apron.

As family and officials watched the plane, Torres, his wife Dianne, and other close Inos officials and family could be seen distraught, wiping away tears as they looked on at the Delta plane.

Inos’ relatives were moved to the front of the crowd when the plane parked. Siblings were called from the designated area to join the family arriving with Inos on the plane.

At 3:20, the crowd watched Torres, Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog, and other officials walk across the tarmac toward the parked Delta plane, to board the plane a few minutes later.

The mood was one of collective focus, quiet, and respectful.

Grim and resolute, law enforcement officials and a color guard saluted as Inos’ remains were taken down from the plane.

Standing with them, a color guard carrying rifles and the U.S. and CNMI flags moved out from their colleagues to join the pall bearers and Inos’ family.

This group would march across the grey airport tarmac to a backdrop of wide sky to deliver Inos’ body into the hearse.

Torres and his wife led a massed line of family members and officials in following the pallbearers. Some family members dabbed napkins at their faces as they walked.

At 3:40pm, a bagpiper that joined the march began playing Amazing Grace, the hymn’s haunting strain floating and lingering in the solemn and still afternoon air—a single note that never seemed to end.

Inos’ remains were respectfully carried into the hearse by 3:44pm, and the end of the hearse closed.

“Today, I welcomed my mentor back home. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Torres said in a statement Friday. “Governor Inos truly loved everything about these islands in the same way he loved life itself. He treated everyone with kindness and respect and worked until his passing day to make a better Commonwealth so that our future generations are blessed with an opportunity to have a better life.”

Outside the airport

It was a moment of mixed emotions as the community stood in solidarity for the solemn welcoming of the late governor on Friday.

Purple ribbons, flags, and photos in memoriam lined the roadside as several dignitaries and family made their way to Borja Funeral Home after a long awaited return since the governor’s passing.

Many agencies were granted administrative leave to pay their respects to the beloved governor, who to many, passed too soon.

Employees of the Joeten Kiyu Public Library, Northern Marianas College, Public School System, BECQ, CERT, Joeten Enterprises, the Olomwaay Family Choir, and several others stood in silence as the convoy passed.

Many held up photos in remembrance while offering words of comfort to each other for the untimely passing of the island’s leader and the heartfelt sorrow of the loss of a husband, father and grandfather. Passersby honked their horns in acknowledgement of the governor.

Dressed in black, individuals who had worked with Inos before he was governor said his loss is a great one to the small island community.

Speaking of the many contributions the late governor made to public education and other community needs, PSS associate commissioner of curriculum and instruction Jackie Quitugua shared that Inos was very passionate about investing in education.

“He was a strong advocate for education for a very long time and really believed that an educated community creates a strong workforce and helps economic development. That’s one thing that really stood out about him. He’s a very simple and humble man and we are saddened by his passing. With each person that passes on in life, there’s no other. There’s that unique individual. We will surely miss his leadership, his contributions and most importantly, his role as our governor,” she said.

Vice principal Elisa Muña, a close friend of Inos’ daughter, said, “On behalf of the school, we want to offer our condolences to the family of the late honorable Gov. Inos. We pray for and support them during this tough time. His daughter was a part of the Public School System and a fellow teacher at one point and a close friend of mine personally, so we’d like to support her and her family,” she said.

Joeten Kiyu Public Library staff stood on the sidelines as the convoy made its way along Beach Road. Library director Erlinda Naputi said: “We want to offer our condolences to the family of the late Gov. Inos. I want to acknowledge all the hard work and dedication he put into the public library. He was very supportive of the library and we wanted to pay our respects by being out here today and on Tuesday… he helped us with additional [full time personnel] for the library and always knew that we were short-staffed and needed more help. He assisted in many ways but that was one of the most essential contributions he has made to the library. On behalf of Joeten Kiyu Public library and the Motheread/Fatheread program, we want to say adios and rest in peace.”

Office of Vocational Rehabilitation director Arlene Yamagata noted the governor’s advocacy for disability programs. “He was very supportive of our disability community. He was always there at activities and events, especially proclamations for different occasions like national disability employment awareness, development disabilities and autism. We pray for his family as they continue mourning. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

As soon as the convoy reached the funeral home, police officials blocked public entry, at the expressed desire of the family for a private viewing.

A tribute and memorial service for the CNMI’s first governor to pass in office will be held today, Monday, from 1pm to 3pm for visiting heads of state, CNMI government officials, Cabinet members, and administration staff at the Borja Funeral Home. (with Daisy Demapan)

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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