All was quiet and solemn as Guam’s leaders gathered at the Legislature for a state memorial service in honor of the late Gloria “Lola” Borja Nelson.
At precisely 8 a.m., a bell echoed in the main session hall as senators escorted Nelson’s casket to the front of the room followed by Nelson’s family and relatives, all of whom wore aqua-marine armbands and lapel ribbons. Several dignitaries were present, including former Lt. Gov. Eddie Reyes, who ran with Nelson in the 1990s for governor and lt. governor.
Giving the eulogy was Sen. Judith Guthertz, a longtime friend of Gloria Nelson.
“Along with Dr. Ione Wolfe, we were known as the ‘Three Musketeers’,” commented Guthertz.
The senator expressed her thanks to her friend for being a role model and for her unique concept of “no-nonsense, tough, yet compassionate, practical and charismatic leadership” who placed students among her main priorities.
“As Director of Education, you would make unannounced visits to schools to the delight of the teachers and apprehension of the principals. You kept the DOE administrators on their toes,” Guthertz recalled, while holding back her tears. “Gloria, you had a sense of fairness well ahead of your time.”
Guthertz also mentioned Nelson’s involvement with teen challenge, the latte of freedom project, and her role as an advocate for the manamko.
“You initiated a famous lawsuit that lasted 13 years that finally brought to fruition the Cost of Living Adjustment owed by the Government of Guam to our retirees,” said Guthertz, adding her friend’s work garnered Nelson the nickname “Lola Cola.”
“In your lifetime of professional and civic service, you constantly butted heads with the powers that be to protect the public interest. You challenged autocracy in bureaucratic offices and school buildings alike. You cut through the bureaucratic haze and smoke. You even took on two Governors of Guam, a difficult undertaking, to protect the independence of the elected school board,” Guthertz said.
The senator also recognized former senator Ted Nelson and Gloria Nelson’s children.
“Your four outstanding children, Gwen, Ted, Glenn, and Rhonda…along with your grandchildren and great grandchildren, have inherited your drive, your intelligence, your character, and your feistiness. Gloria, thank you for being so unique. You have been one of a kind,” Guthertz concluded.
Following the service, Nelson’s body was escorted to the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica where friends and colleagues bid her farewell. She was laid to rest in Pigo Cemetery.