CERES — Mourners packed a church and spilled outside into the parking lot at a funeral Tuesday morning for Hormiz "Nenos" David, one of three Central Valley hikers who were swept over Vernal Fall at Yosemite National Park last month.
The emotional service drew hundreds of people of all ages, many of whom sobbed as the flower-laden casket entered and exited the St. George Assyrian Church of the East. David's parents, Sargon and Shamiran David, leaned heavily on family members as they walked into and out of the service.
But David's sister, Ashtar, encouraged well-wishers not to cry as she greeted them after the service.
"He would hate it if you were sad," she said of her brother. She added that there were no words to describe David, four years her junior.
"He was the life of every party," she said. "He was too perfect for this world."
David, 22, Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock were on a day trip with friends July 19 when they fell into the river and were swept over 317-foot Vernal Fall.
Rangers found David's body Aug. 5; regular searches for Badal and Yacoub continue, hampered by a river swollen by a massive winter snowpack.
The service was followed by a lunch reception at Larsa Banquet Hall in Denair. Volunteers prepared lunch for a crowd of about 800, who ate at tables set up by more volunteers.
Ramina Kiryakous, a volunteer at Larsa and a friend of the hikers' families, said dozens of people offered donations for everything from food to decorations and linens. At the family's request, she said, a head table set up for them went instead to David's friends.
Volunteer assistant Kathy Mirza said a floral designer contributed pieces and stands ready to do the same for services for Badal and Yacoub. Servers came from the church youth group.
"Everybody just keeps asking what they can do to help," she said.
The tragedy has attracted attention from the Assyrian community worldwide, as well as others.
Electronic signatures continued to come in to a petition the families started to encourage more resources be used in searches at Yosemite. Just since Sunday, signatures have come from Australia, Sweden and the Russian Federation, as well as from around the Untied States.
Victoria Nazloo of San Jose posted a message on the Facebook page Badal's family uses:
"Your community will continue to stand strong behind you supporting you, sending love, and praying for you all," she said. The Facebook page, created after the July 19 accident in Yosemite, has signed up more than 3,000 "friends" in less than a month.
At Tuesday's lunch, blue sheets of paper adorned each table. These held the last poem Nenos David wrote, titled "If Only."
It reads, in part: "I cry out to the Lord. My ship is yours to keep. My life is your trusted fleet. But I pray, oh, Lord, if I must go. Liberate my fellow brothers to and fro. And let my thoughts do justice, rightly so."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343.