Friends and Family Mourn the Death of Michael Robert Belko
Son, brother, former ASUCI at-large representative and UC Irvine student Michael Robert Belko passed away this past Monday at approximately 1 p.m.
Belko was mortally wounded as a result of a tragic accident, and taken to the hospital where he was put on life support. His death was confirmed later that evening.
Michael Belko is survived by his parents David and Denise as well as his two sisters Michelle and Kelly.
On Saturday, friends and family gathered at Belko’s memorial service in his hometown of Newbury Park. At the First Christian Church, Belko’s life was celebrated with pictures, stories and shared emotion.
“The memorial service was moving, organized and peaceful,” said third-year earth and environmental science major Jack Pan, a good friend of Belko and a main coordinator of the events held in Michael’s honor. “It was really nice to see his life in pictures, to watch him progress and grow every year.”
Belko was a second-year political science major who was trilingual and a black belt. He pursued cultural knowledge and spoke up for himself, said Henry Wang, a third-year political science major who held the same title in ASUCI with Belko.
“I met him my freshman year, as he was giving me an interview for ASUCI. He was the one who actually got me interested in student government and helped me a lot with my campaign,” Wang said. “For me, the most notable thing he will be remembered for was his straightforwardness and honesty. In the midst of everyone who would say something different that went along the lines of safety, he would tell the truth about the situation. He was not scared to be different from everyone else if it meant telling the truth.”
Belko was responsible for many key pieces of legislation within ASUCI, including the Anti-discrimination Act and the creation of the Health Services Committee.
Not only was he heavily involved in doing good for the masses, Belko also was a loyal friend and a talented individual at his core, Wang recounted.
On a trip to San Francisco with two friends, Wang said a very significant turn in his life occurred in direct correlation with Belko.
“We went up to San Francisco for a trip,” Wang said, “and I must admit, my friends and I were intolerant of the goings-on in the city as far as homosexuality and openness were concerned. Michael opened my eyes and truly took time to create a feeling of tolerance among us. I left that trip really appreciating Michael’s efforts to make us more tolerant, and I felt better for it.”
Politics was an enormous point of interest for Michael Belko, and both Wang and Pan agree that conversation with Belko on these topics never ran dry.
He was passionate about world politics, the federal government and his own community government at UCI.
“This guy, every time he ran an election, he would never ask any entities to back it up; where people usually ask for support from clubs, fraternities, sororities and groups, he would run it the traditional way and go places, talking to people, making posters, etc.,” Pan said. “He would do everything by himself. I remember talking to someone about how that was what a true statesman would do.”
Pan added that as well as being a cultured scholar, Asian language afficianado, volunteer translator and a good friend, Belko was funny and charismatic.
“He could do baby accents, you name one, he could do it. He could do accents and dialogues from whole movies. I remember one time he was doing the Godfather voice and it was completely on point. It was so funny,” Pan said.
“He always thought of others before himself,” Wang said. “He always gave great advice and great support. We will always remember and celebrate his life.”