“My dad was truly an amazing person. He was generous, caring, had such a great spirit and touched so many people’s lives,” Marisa Taitague says of her father, Benny. Born in Guam, Benny earned the rank of Eagle Scout as a boy and was inducted into the organization’s Order of the Arrow. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. Upon fulfilling his commitment, Benny was honorably discharged from the military. Benny, who worked as a supervisor for the electronic maintenance department at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, was married to the love of his life, Marie, for 38 years. In his free time, he traveled around the country competing in professional barbeque competitions, where he often placed among the top three. He was passionate about his barbeque and he loved to prepare food for his friends and family. Marisa explains, “Everyone just loved his food and being around him.” Through the years, Benny continued to be active in the Guamanian community and developed a close relationship with Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, who represents Guam, and her staff.
In the spring of 2015, Benny Taitague’s stomach began to hurt. Soon, he was in so much pain that he was unable to eat. He lost a considerable amount of weight and he became extremely fatigued. By July, he developed an alarming symptom: jaundice. His eyes and skin both turned yellow. He experienced such severe back pain that he could no longer walk up the stairs. When Marie had to physically lift him, Benny realized that things had become serious. He finally went to the hospital. The doctors performed a series of tests and uncovered two growths in his pancreas.
Benny’s medical team determined that the growths were pancreatic cancer. In quick succession, he underwent two surgical procedures. First, he had a stent placed to help alleviate the jaundice. During this procedure, the doctor learned that he had a small ulcer in his esophagus and a blood clot elsewhere. A second surgery was performed to try to stop the bleeding from the ulcer. He developed an infection and he remained hospitalized for a month. Benny passed away September 3rd, 2015, on his and Marie’s 38th wedding anniversary. Benny is survived by his wife, Marie, and his children, Jayson, Stacie and Marisa.
Marisa Runs for Her Hero
Shortly after losing her beloved father, Marisa decided she wanted to run a race and raise money for a pancreatic cancer charity. A competitive soccer player for most of her life, she is now most passionate about running. She has been running for the past eight years and has completed races of every distance from the 5k to the full marathon. She describes her father as one of the biggest supporters of her running, and she felt that fundraising for a pancreatic cancer charity was a good way to honor his battle. She found Project Purple on the internet and saw that it was a charity partner with the New York City Half-Marathon. Marisa, who lives and works in New York City, had previously run her hometown half-marathon. A fan of the event, she applied for and was accepted to the Project Purple team.
Marisa loved running as part of the Project Purple team. She appreciated the encouraging email updates from the charity. For race day, she received a singlet and gloves, which made her feel like a valued member of the team. “Running the New York City Half was an amazing experience. I have run the race twice before, but I really wanted to run for a charity specifically for pancreatic cancer,” she explains. Following the race, Marisa enjoyed meeting up with the other runners on her team at a ‘meet and greet’. At the gathering, she was able to connect with runners who understood what it was like to watch a family member fight pancreatic cancer.
Marisa, who works as an accountant for the company that lights up the Rockefeller Center each year, decided that she wanted continue the momentum she built at the New York City Half-Marathon. She had such a great experience with Project Purple the first time around that she decided to run with the charity again in July. She looked at the various races the charity partners with and settled on the San Francisco Marathon. She says, “One of my goals is to run a marathon in all 50 states. I have not run a race in California, so I thought San Francisco would be a good choice. That way I can also visit my sister, Stacie, who lives there.”
Marisa recalls how Benny was deeply loved by so many people. When he passed away, the family had to have two services. “The church was literally packed wall-to-wall during the viewing. My parents live in Maryland, but a lot of our friends and family reside in California and Nevada. We actually had to have another mass on the West Coast because so many people wanted to pay their respects,” Marisa explains. As she trains and prepares for her upcoming marathon, Marisa again will be paying her respects to her father on both coasts. In March, she honored him in New York. This summer, she will do so again in San Francisco as she runs for Benny, her father, her hero and her inspiration in life.
Please make a tax-deductible donation to Marisa’s Project Purple San Francisco Marathon fundraiser at the following link: