Saturday, October 03, 2015

A Man from Malesso'


Jose Mata Torres, who I've spent the past two years working with, passed away earlier this week. I worked with him for more than a year in getting his memoir "Massacre at Atate" published. We held a book launch in February of this year and more than 200 people showed up to hear the story of how the people of Malesso' suffered during World War II, and when faced with possible annihilation at the hands of the Japanese, decided to fight back. We had begun work on another project and I am hoping that I can finish it in his honor.

We would meet regularly sometimes three or four times a month and I will miss those meetings so much.

Below is a list of accomplishments and other bio-data for Mr. Torres.

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Jose Mata Torres was born November 26, 1926 and died September 28, 2015.

He was born in the village of Malesso’ and was a lifelong resident of the village.

He married Carmen Lizama Torres and they had two daughters, Rita Benavente and Carmelita Reyes. He had seven grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.

Jose Torres was 15 years old when the Japanese invaded and occupied Guam. In July 1944 he joined with other men from the village of Malesso’ who, led by Jose “Tonko” Reyes banded together to kill the Japanese in their village and liberated themselves. This uprising took place at the concentration camp in Atate.

Following the uprising at Atate, Torres joined five others (Jesus Barcias, Antonio Leon Guerrero Cruz, Joaquin Chargualaf Manalisay, Juan Meno Garrido and Juan Atoigue Cruz) who sailed out in a canoe to send word to the American ships circling the island about the Japanese atrocities. The six men were initially picked up by the USS Wadsworth and later transferred to the USS George Clymer.

Torres attended schools in Malesso’ and Hagatna, and after the war attended and graduated from St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester, New York.

On Guam Torres worked for the US National Institutes of Health research team that was studying Guam’s high incidences of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Parkinsonism-Dementia Complex, also known as Lytico-Bodig or ALS-PDC.

In 1995 he began hosting a weekly radio show “Classical Concert” on Guam’s public radio station KPRG. On his show he would share his love of classical music with the island, frequently expressing his joy for it in the Chamorro language. He retired his show in 2015 after 20 years on the air, after being named a “living legend” by the crew at KPRG.

In 2010 he was interviewed as a featured guest on the internationally syndicated show “Exploring Music” with Bill McGlaughlin. He discussed the beauty of Guam, his experiences during the Japanese occupation and his love of classical music.

In 2012 Torres was chosen as a guest conductor for the Guam Symphony during their show The Music and Legends of Guam at the Aurora Resort in Tumon. Torres fulfilled a life-long dream of his when he conducted the Guam Symphony in their performance of Tchaikovsky’s March Slav.

Torres worked for the US Civil Service on Guam and retired in 1986.

In 2015, he published his memoir entitled “Massacre at Atåte” through the University of Guam Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC) with the assistance of the UOG Chamorro Studies Program. In his memoir he documented not only his own World War II story, but also the heroism of the men who fought the Japanese and liberated themselves, helping to ensure that future generations will be able to read and appreciate their story. 

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