The Wednesday morning death of former NFL star Junior Seau drew hundreds of mourners to his beachfront home, where the life-long Oceanside resident was often seen enjoying the sun and chatting up neighbors.
“He was a good, humble man,” said neighbor Eric Dobbins, who often saw Seau surfing, riding his bike on the boardwalk and eating dinner at Oceanside haunt . ”He didn’t act like a celebrity. He never exploited that.”
Outside the residence, people wept, sang hymns and embraced each other. Friends, family and fans piled flowers near the doorstep and some gathered on the beach to pray and create a giant cross made of stones. As Seau’s mother left the house, she cried out “God bless you all” and thanked the crowd for their support.
Many of the onlookers seemed to have a personal reason that brought them there to pay respect, including Pearlie Daniels, who knew Seau for many years.
“What I will remember most is his beautiful glow, and how he really loved and cared for everyone,” she said.
Several years ago Daniels’ daughter Jakayla wrote an essay about Seau for a contest at the Oceanside Boys & Girls Club, where he was an active sponsor. Jakayla won the essay contest, and when Seau found out, he sent her and group of local kids to Massachusetts for the awards ceremony.
“He rolled out the red carpet for us—I will never forget that,” Daniels said smiling. And though Seau was playing for the New England Patriots at the time, he managed to break away so he could spend time with the kids. “He made us feel like family. That’s the kind of person he was.”
Making people feel important was one of Seau’s most beautiful qualities, says Shawn Mitchell, who was a close friend for more than 20 years and is the San Diego Chargers’ Chaplain in addition to being the founder of Oceanside’s .
“He was larger than life, but he always had time for the little guy,” Mitchell said. “My man was a Pied Piper.”
The light he brought into people’s life makes the loss that much darker, Mitchell said.
“What breaks my heart is knowing that a lot of boys and girls are going to cry today not understanding why their superhero is gone,” he said. “Though our superhero is no longer with us, there is still always somebody who can help you if you’re hurting. If you need help, please find a support network.”
La Mesans shed tears and brought flowers to the Junior Seau Sports Complex at Parkway Middle School and La Mesita Park.
“He gave his heart to San Diego,” said La Mesan Alan McCornack. “Everybody in San Diego is going to miss him."
“San Diego loves Junior Seau,” said McCornack, who attended and . “I don’t know what happened, but it’s a big loss.”
McCornack placed home-grown roses at the sports complex sign at Parkway Middle School. “It’s hard to talk about it,” he said with tears in his eyes. “It’s still so fresh.”
The sports complex—which includes La Mesita Park, the John A. Davis Family YMCA and the football field at the middle school—was one of Seau’s philanthropic projects in the county.
Named after the popular Chargers linebacker, the complex opened 12 years ago. Seau donated $55,000, as well as multiple hours helping garner donations for the complex, which features lighted, full-size football and soccer fields, four lighted tennis courts, a picnic area, a tot lot and a skate park.
“Junior wanted to create a facility that would allow kids to participate in sports because youth sports meant a lot to him when he was growing up,” said Yvonne Garrett, assistant city manager and director of community services with the . “He helped us achieve that goal for La Mesa and surrounding communities.”
Garrett continued: “Junior was passionate about getting this project done and took time out of his busy schedule to attend fundraising events in support of our efforts to raise money. He would make calls as needed to show how important this project was to La Mesa. His drive helped us make it happen.”
Garrett was prominently involved with interacting with Seau throughout the process. She said her fondest memory of the linebacker was the day the park opened.
“Junior had so much fun tossing footballs to the Pop Warner kids,” Garrett said. “I, along with so many others, am deeply saddened by the news today. My heart goes out to his family.”
Parents waiting to pick up their kids at the middle school Wednesday afternoon, paused to take photos of the sign and leave flowers.
Taylor Puapuaga Jr. wore his Chargers knit cap as he lay a yellow hibiscus.
“This is shocking and devastating,” said Puapuaga, who is from Hawaii but is visiting in Spring Valley. “He was a great football player and a great person.”
He recalled seeing Seau at a Pro Bowl game in Hawaii. “He meant a lot to Charger fans; he took us to the Super Bowl in ’95.”
Paupauga said he identified with Seau because he, too, is Samoan.
“He gave a good name to the Samoan people,” he said.
Superintendent Brian Marshall, who was a principal in the district at the time the complex opened, also expressed heartfelt condolences to the Seau family, on behalf of the district.
“We will always treasure Junior’s contributions to La Mesa with respect to the field donation at Parkway and the impact it’s had to the kids in our district,” Marshall said. “The district is eternally grateful to Junior and for the Seau Foundation for their work.”
Patch will keep you updated on developments and memorials.
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