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THE CHAMPION OF OUR HEARTS

Last week, Guam lost not only one if its finest female bodybuilders but also a loving friend, mentor and true lady. Good friend Steve Oshiro shares with us his memorial for bodybuilding champion Flo Burke.

By Steve Oshiro

In Memory of Florencia Galang Burke

The sky was painted a vivid and deep dark blue. Its vastness only interrupted by the glimmer of distant stars, jewels sparkling as if to remind us of the beauty awaiting for her in the heavens above.

Low lying clouds danced serenely across the horizon, illuminated by the soft glow of a crescent moon hanging just above. In the last hour of a night almost as beautiful as she, our beloved Florencia Galang Burke left our world and journeyed into the next.

Flo Burke sharing time with close friend Steve Oshiro and husband Howie Burke. (courtesy photo)

Bodybuilding champion Flo Burke shared time with close friend Steve Oshiro and husband Howie Burke. (photo courtesy of Howie Burke)

Much has been said about Flo the bodybuilder over the last few days and rightfully so. She was successful on every level of the sport.

Locally, she was a multiple Guam National Bodybuilding champion. Regionally, she won the South Pacific Bodybuilding Championships and was a Pacific Games medalist. She represented Guam internationally competing at the World Championships, the pinnacle of amateur bodybuilding.  But for those of us who knew her personally, Flo was more than a bodybuilding champion, she was the champion of our hearts.

She was tenacious in the gym and competition, but in person she was a genuinely kind, generous and loving soul. Her generosity was limitless and her love free from boundaries. If it appeared her physique was forged from steel, then her heart and soul were surely cast in gold. There is a saying that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. If this is true then Flo truly built the largest and most splendid life. She was that thoughtful and selfless and gave abundantly of herself.

Flo Burke spent years as a flight attendant with United Airlines and always had the support from her co-workers. (courtesy photo)

Flo Burke spent years as a flight attendant with United Airlines and always had the support from her co-workers. (photo by Henry Taitano)

If you thought she moved on stage with a sense of style and flair, in real life you were awed by her grace and elegance. There was something about the way she carried herself that made her special. She made her presence known and her aura could fill and light up a room.  If you thought she exuded confidence on stage, it was because she was comfortable in her own skin. No one could make her feel inferior. No one defined Flo, she defined herself. She was regal in her own fashion. In her mind she was royal, a queen, a proud Filipina.

Although she had no children of her own, she was motherly to many. She took many young athletes under her wing encouraging them to train hard, offering advice or just words of encouragement to put forward their best effort. She loved children and they loved her back. Her eyes lit up like diamonds whenever she spoke of her nieces and nephews, excited to share news of their accomplishments. She was very proud of them.

As a single father, my parenting skills can sometimes lack the gentle and soft qualities only a woman’s love can provide.  However brief it was that she was in their lives, I will forever be grateful my sons knew and experienced the tenderness of her love and affection. Thank you sister for the kindness you showed them, they will be better men for having known you.

Flo Burke always appreciated the simple things from her husband Howie. (photo courtesy of Howie Burke)

Flo Burke always appreciated the simple things from her husband Howie. (photo courtesy of Howie Burke)

If you thought she was happiest and in her element on the bodybuilding stage, then you never witnessed the glow of her persona while she was with Howie. Yes it thrilled her to hold the title of Ms. Guam, but she was at her happiest living her life as Mrs. Burke. Together they complimented each other and made one another better people. They loved each other deeply. In marriage they truly became one.

Perhaps the fondest and dearest memory I will hold of Flo is of the radiant smile that filled her face every Sunday afternoon when Howie – without fail – would pick a flower and place it in her hair.

Her genuine appreciation and contentment by his simple act of love and affection speaks volumes about her as a lady. Little girls grow up and become women but only a few ever become ladies. Flo was a lady. She was never motivated by material things. Simple gestures that showed her you cared for her would satisfy her soul.

Flo was a great role model for the sport of bodybuilding. She was an inspiration to many athletes who looked up to her and were motivated by her success. However, it would better serve our world if we all aspired to be more like Flo the person. The kind, loving, generous and selfless human who treated all people with the respect and dignity they deserve. The best way to remember, honor and celebrate her life would be to treat each other as she treated us, with genuine and unconditional love and kindness.

In closing I quote the American poet, Maya Angelou:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 
― Maya Angelou

Florencia Galang Burke, you made us feel loved.  So until we meet again, good bye my friend. Good bye my sister. Good bye beautiful. You will always be our favorite girl.

Flo Burke and good friend Steve Oshiro after one of her many bodybuilding championships. (courtesy photo)

Flo Burke and good friend Steve Oshiro after one of her many bodybuilding championships. (courtesy photo)

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Sports legend Joe Taitano used to run to school at JFK from his Yigo home and back. He continued this routine up to 1979 when he’d run from home to GW gym and back to practice for the South Pacific Games with the national basketball team. Guam went on to win its second straight SPG gold medal.

 

 

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