The California state flag flies in the breeze, above a bouquet and photo of the late Jenny Oropeza at her funeral service today. Photo by Ryan ZumMallen.
4:30pm | Hundreds gathered Monday afternoon to mourn the passing of State Senator Jenny Oropeza, who most recently served the 28th District that encompasses much of Los Angeles County, including Long Beach. Oropeza was running for a second term in next week's mid-term elections, when she died unexpectedly last Wednesday evening. She was 53 years old.
Heartfelt remarks delivered by friends and family at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Cypress today painted the picture of a beloved public servant and compassionate leader who lived life to the fullest. Her younger sister Lynne and goddaughter Alisha began an emotional celebration with testimony and personal memories.
The two-hour service was led by Reverend Sue Fisher and other speakers included Long Beach Health & Human Services director Ron Arias, Long Beach City Councilmember Robert Garcia (who occupies Oropeza's former 1st District seat), Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and Sharon Weissman, Oropeza's chief of staff and closest friend of 38 years.
"What beautiful weather we have today," said Weissman. "I can see that Jenny has already expanded her sphere of influence."
Oropeza was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2004 and survived the disease, friends said on Monday that it only renewed her energy to fight for the issues she believed in. In May of this year, doctors discovered a blood clot in Oropeza's abdomen and she took a leave of absence. Staff predicted a speedy recovery but she missed the entire summer with continuing problems and passed away at Long Beach Memorial Hospital last week.
A locally bred leader, Oropeza previously served in the State Assembly, Long Beach City Council and Long Beach School Board before reaching the State Senate in 2006. At the time of her election in 1994, Oropeza was the first Latina to achieve a seat in the Long Beach City Council. She was also the first two-term student body president at California State Long Beach.