About 300 people gathered on Tuesday to honor Donato "Don" Sanfilippo, the longtime La Mesa restaurant owner who died on July 1.
The memorial service was held at Faith Chapel in Spring Valley.
Sanfilippo (1939-2012) had a massive stroke in 2007 and needed constant supervision, which he got at Community Convalescent Hospital in La Mesa. Just after the stroke, he lived at home with his wife of 49 years, Anna.
Pallbearers brought in Sanfilippo's casket into the church prior to the memorial service starting. The casket was opened, allowing attendees to view the body and pay their final repects to the longtime La Mesa resident.
When the service began, vocalist Marie Olson-Weir sang "Your Mercies In Disguise" and "Amazing Grace" as people took their seats.
The eulogy was delivered by Don and Anna's oldest daughter Dora.
"My dad was a great guy," she said. "He was a funny guy. He was a happy guy. And if you worked for him, he was sometimes a scary guy!"
She told of her father's journey to this country as an immigrant in 1954 and how 21 years later, her parents opened in La Mesa, which remains a popular in The Village to this day.
"The employees will know what this means," said Dora," [parents] didn't always agree on the 'how' but the 'why' was always evident. They wanted their customers to have the best meal in town."
Dora said that she is reminded of those moments in life "that take your breath away." She said, for her father, the moments that would have taken his breath away were when he sailed into New York on that boat and saw the Statue of Liberty, the day he first met Anna, the day his daughters were born, the day Sanfilippo's first opened, on August 3, 1975.
"I know my dad is watching over us, I know he loves us," said Dora. "And I know he didn't leave us. He went on [to Heaven] before us and made a way."
His widow Anna, 74, then spoke lovingly and amusingly of her husband of nearly a half-century. She said she was overwhelmed by the amount of people that came to the memorial, and personally thanked "the most important people in this place today," the nurses that took care of her husband.
"Stand up, girls," she said, which they did to a rousing ovation.
Still a fireplug, Anna cracked jokes, and seemed genuinely thankful to the people in attendance, saying she "didn't realize Don had so many friends."
She also said that she was very nervous, but "I guess I'm not doing that bad, huh? The barbecue pit is coming later. No, we're not having pizza!"
She concluded by asking those in attendance for one favor.
"When you walk out of here today, look at your spouse, or your kids, or your brother or sister, and tell them 'I love you.' You can do that for me," she said. "And even if you fight in the car on the way home, who cares!"
Sanfilippo was interned at Singing Hills Memorial Park.
He is survived by Anna; his two daughters, Dora and Delina; two grandchildren, Sabrina and James; and one son-in-law, Bill. He also is survived by four sisters and many nieces and nephews.