About 200 family members and friends gathered for a memorial on Wednesday in Bluebird Park to celebrate Laguna Auto Parts owner Jerry Francis Piper — a generous, thoughtful, adventurous, loving man — with tears and laughter.
Piper died Dec. 13 from a heart attack. He was 60 years old.
"Life with Jerry was full of surprises, full of laughter and full of love," said his wife, Jennifer Francis. "I have been truly blessed to have him in my life."
Piper was a car enthusiast who would fix windshield wipers in the rain, would help the homeless living in their cars — without hope of being repaid — and made sure his daughters took care of their own cars, friends and family remembered.
He was good to his wife, always trying to do small things to make her happy, like washing her car or picking up coconut milk for her from Mother's Market, and always made sure to save his Sunday afternoons for her.
"Jerry was a very, very special person," Jennifer said. "He was a loving husband and he was always trying to please me."
Piper was also a devoted father, grandfather and son — he made a point of having lunch with his father weekly, Jennifer said.
"I can testify to the great love and care he had for his family," said son-in-law Clark Gallagher. "I count myself a very blessed man to have known him and to have spent time with him, and most especially, to have had him as a grandfather to my children."
He also considered everyone his best friend and truly wanted to help them while making everyone he came in contact with feel special by giving them his full attention, friends remembered.
"To discover one man could love and be loved by so many — I'm shocked," said his youngest daughter Jordan.
He worked hard — usually six days a week and more than eight hours a day — but he played hard too. A lover of nature and animals, especially dogs, he liked to hike, cross-country ski, go off-roading in a Jeep and go off the beaten track.
He lived life to the fullest and had an adventurous spirit, friends said.
Those who wish to do something in honor of Piper are asked to take time each day to do something nice for someone else, Jennifer said.
"Leave someone each day better off than when you meet them," she said.