A potpourri of more than 400 people packed into a Cupertino church Tuesday morning to say goodbye to their friend Tony Reyes.
"The farewell we give Tony is a temporary farewell. The burial is a temporary burial," said Friar Don Morgan of St. Joseph's Church, where Reyes had been christened and now received his last rites. "Tony will rise."
Born in Mountain View, raised in Cupertino and resident of San Bruno, Reyes bowled for the San Jose State University team and as professional bowler, won one Professional Bowling Association (PBA) title in 2006 with a score of 255. His 300 perfect game still echoes in the memory of PBA diehards. He died tragically in a late-night vehicle accident on Highway 101 in Redwood City on Sept. 28, 2012.
At the funeral mass, Reyes' relatives and bowling friends blended into one large extended family.
"As his mother-in-law, I knew he was popular and we knew he had lots of friends," said Mary Sylls, who carried Reyes' 12-month-old daughter Gianna dressed in a delicate embroidered black and white tulle dress—in Oakland Raiders colors Sylls added, his favorite NFL team.
"He was just Tony to us. Our Tony."
Outside of the church, friends shared memories and thoughts about the guy who cared deeply about the sport of bowling and started conversations with a "hey buddy!"
"He was everything to everyone," said Jamar Lee of Livermore and a bowler for 21 years. "To me he was a brother, a teacher, a coach and a dear friend."
The mother of a 17-year-old junior bowler shared that Reyes had once told friends that his dream had been to be the best bowler ever, but that as time went on—and he didn't reach that goal—his new dream was to help the youth.
"He did it with the biggest smile on his face," said Mardi James, a San Jose resident.
James moved her son from the Cambrian Bowling Alley to 4th Street Bowl where Reyes played, coached and ran the Off the Sheet Pro-Shop. She explained junior bowlers were usually between 13 and 20 years old.
"He had used bowling balls that he would give out. He'd give it to the juniors for free," she said. "His love for junior bowlers was beyond measure and he showed it. He wanted each one to succeed."
A shared passion for bowling—and Reyes' positivity—attracted people to his energy. Reyes helped people fix equipment for free and even reviewed and analyzed video with bowlers.
"He must be the most well-known bowler with only one title in the PBA," said Brett Mercurio, 30. He looked over to where Reyes daughter ran around in the grass outside of the church. "She probably won't remember her father, but she'll be told about him."
Minutes later when Sylls heard about the love friends had for Reyes, she choked back tears. "We lost a son. We loved him and he loved us. I know because he would always tell us," she said.
She looked solemnly at Gianna.
"She will know him," she said, "Because his friends will always share his stories."
A memorial fund has been set up to help wife Nicole and daughter Gianna. For more information click here.