LAND O'LAKES — She traveled from island to island in the wake of destruction. At times, she found herself at ground zero when disaster struck, offering hope to the helpless in the Philippines.
Typhoons, volcano eruptions, landslides, floods and boat sinkings. Erlinda Gordon dealt with them all.
For more than 12 years, Mrs. Gordon was a short-wave radio operator who coordinated relief during disasters. Following catastrophes, she would hop on a plane or ferry in search of a radio signal. Mrs. Gordon was well known around the islands, so pilots and boat captains welcomed her aboard.
Mrs. Gordon died Oct. 9 while under hospice care. She was 64.
One of Mrs. Gordon's missions came after the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo on the island of Luzon. It was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the 20th century.
Mrs. Gordon lived near the volcano at the time and witnessed its eruption and the devastation that followed. Several hundred people died.
"She explained about the (ash) covering cars and roads, and then the mud slides that followed," said Phillip Gordon, her husband of nearly 15 years. "The destruction of all the villages around was absolutely incredible."
Despite making only about $100 per month, Mrs. Gordon worked long hours behind the radio. She was also a teacher and a tutor. Her knowledge of the country's many dialects made her highly respected around the islands.
"She was on the job for 24 hours a day for days and weeks (at a time) because these things went on and on," her husband said. "She got to be known famously for her accuracy."
Two of Mrs. Gordon's children and some of her grandchildren still live in the Philippines.
She often sent money or care packages with medicine, clothes and food to her family in the islands.
"She would rather starve herself than starve her family back in the Philippines," said her brother, Romeo Dancel of Virginia Beach, Va. Mrs. Gordon raised Dancel's two sons, along with her own four children, when he moved to the United States.
It took her 17 years to get a Visa, but Mrs. Gordon finally made it to the states in 1994. The next year, she met Phillip Gordon in Virginia Beach. He was a high school history teacher. She taught English to Filipino kids.
The couple made Land O'Lakes their home in 1996.
In February, Mrs. Gordon underwent the first of several operations to remove a cancerous spot on her liver. She went into a hospice care center earlier this month but died after her liver and kidneys failed.
Kevin Smetana can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2439.