In a memorial service filled with tears and laughter, Lori Gonzalez was remembered Thursday as a caring, giving woman who had a quick wit and prankster streak about her.
About 300 friends and family members attended the service in the auditorium of Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, where Gonzalez had been a Sunday school teacher.
Gonzalez, who lived in Mission Viejo, would have been 21 on Sunday. She was fatally shot in her car last weekend in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant on La Brea Avenue in South-Central Los Angeles. The gunman is still at large, and police believe his intended target was Gonzalez's male companion, who was in the passenger's seat and ducked as several shots were fired.
She was Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks' granddaughter. Parks did not attend Thursday's memorial service but is expected to be at her funeral Saturday in Los Angeles.
At the memorial service, Gonzalez's fiance, who gave his name only as Brian, recalled speaking with her just hours before she died. The two had made plans to meet the following day.
"She wanted me to teach her to play the slot machines because we were going to Vegas for her birthday," he said.
Every speaker told how Gonzalez touched countless lives, from the poor in Tijuana for whom she helped build houses to a Pacific Bell co-worker who knew her for only two weeks.
"Lori brought light. She was a joy to know," said Desi Carter, a telephone operator.
Gonzalez worked full time as an operator and part time at a drugstore. That was a sign of her strong character and desire to excel, said her father, Joe Gonzalez.
"Lori was a young woman of character," he said. "She chose to be loving. She chose to be giving. She had in her a desire to be the best, [including] the best operator at Pac Bell."
He and other speakers spoke of Gonzalez's commitment to younger children and her eagerness to work with them.
"She was never too old. Never too cool. Never too busy. She always had time to help children," her father said.
Lori Gonzalez, who was African American, liked to surprise people by introducing them to her stepmother, Debbie, who is white. But she was usually introduced simply as "'Mom," Debbie Gonzalez said.
Such introductions to catch people off guard demonstrated the young woman's mischievous spirit, Debbie Gonzalez said.
Pastor Eric Nachtrieb, who knew Lori Gonzalez well from her involvement in the church, said she was passionate about many things, including prayer and writing. He asked her friends and family to rely on their faith to trust in God, though he added, "It makes no sense that a woman . . . so full of hope couldn't be here with us today."