They arrived at the small Evangelical church at 680 Guerrero St. on Saturday afternoon from Stockton, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Treasure Island, the Sunset, Visitation Valley and the 24th Street BART plaza — all friends and family who remembered David Wesley Duran’s 41 years of life.

Some recalled summers with grandparents in Clear Lake and swimming, others the 40-yard touchdown for Mission High School, the white scooter and the charm. Later, some said, came the small room on 16th Street and Julian Avenue, the long afternoons at the 24th Street BART plaza, the living between friends and family and the trips to the emergency room of San Francisco General Hospital.

Although the details are unclear, no one doubted the cause of death — a long battle with alcoholism that ended on Bayshore Boulevard, across from Domino’s Pizza. That’s where police found Duran without identification on Feb. 17. He had already stopped breathing.

Within days, the body had been identified and a memorial for Duran went up at the 24th Street BART plaza. For many walking by, his may have appeared an unremarkable life. Maybe so, but I went to the Saturday memorial to find out.

It was an afternoon of reminders — of how extraordinary anyone’s life is; the connections; the legacy; how for some alcohol and drugs represent a phase and for others a disease that trumps everything else. The latter is a common affliction here. With 109 visits per 10,000 population, the 94110 zip code has the city’s fifth highest emergency room admission rate for alcoholism.

“We’ve all lived a rough life,” said Maria Duran, his 26-year-old sister. “Alcohol is no joke.”

Added his brother John Duran, “He didn’t die as a result of a fight, his creator decided it was time for him to take his journey. He was sick with alcoholism, suffering from the disease, suffering for a long time.”

But suffering was not the sum total of Duran’s life. He enjoyed drinking and chilling with his friends at the 24th Street BART Plaza, mourners recalled. It wasn’t a life that anyone at the service could change. Not his old friends from high school who sat in the back of the church. Not his sister from Stockton; not his son from Santa Rosa.

Instead, they accepted Duran and recalled acts of kindness. Some of us were runaways, said Michael, we didn’t have any place to go. Duran would invite them to stay in his room on 16th and Julian, he said. When he got his assistance check, said his sister-in-law Juanita Alvarado, Duran bought her groceries. And oh, how he loved the Luther Vandross song “Dance With My Father.”

Karmina Murllio, the mother of his 19-year old son, David Duran Jr., remembered being 16 years old in 1989, skipping class at her all-girl Catholic school and going to Dolores Park. Duran drove up on his white scooter. Two months later she met him again at Carnaval, and that was that. They were in love. They had a son.

Sure, he had been a drinker, but it never became serious until 1996, when Duran’s father died, a couple of his relatives said. He too had suffered from alcoholism, friends said. After he was gone, the young Duran never recovered.

“I watched him struggle his whole life with alcohol,” said his son, who will go to Santa Rosa Community College in the fall. “It hurts because I never got to show him that I graduated, that I’d be going to college.”

Alvarado, his sister-in-law, said she has had her own struggles, and now works with those in recovery.

“It was a cycle for him,” she said, adding that last Thanksgiving was the first time she had ever heard Duran say he was ready to quit. But that wasn’t to happen. He hung out with others “who lived the lifestyle,” and he never went into a program, she said.

Five hours after the service ended, I imagined that most of those who came from far way were on their way home. That was true too of some from the 24th Street BART plaza. The memorial was gone, but Duran’s friends had already returned.

Correction: a photo of a man other than David Duran was published in a print edition of Mission Loc@l. We apologize for the mistake.

Lydia Chávez

I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born...

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8 Comments

  1. Lydia. Thank you for coming out n getting the story straight. Jus one thing he was found nxt to dominos in front of the meat market.

  2. This is a sad story. Thanks for telling it so well. It’s sad that there are others like this poor fellow on the street, struggling and suffering. And it’s just as sad that liquor stores happily profit off this illness by selling them cheap booze with high alcohol content — designed for drinking on the street.

  3. Thank you so much for covering the story on my brother. He was always a kind-spirited loving gentleman, with a heart of gold. With my brother, there were no games, if you were his friend, he would give his life for you. Always the protector, I can’t count how many times he saved my life and protected me from harm, even if he did beat me up a couple times himself when we were little 🙂 Lol, he always said I’m going to make you tough….hahaha, but I think all big brothers do that. Even the night he took his journey to the spirit world, he got into a fight protecting the honor of one of his female friends (some idiot inapproprately touched her). That was my brother, Forever a Gentleman, Forever a Protector, Forever a Warrior!!!! I love you David and I’ll see you when it is my turn!!! =) Ah-Ho!!! Mitakuye Oyasin

  4. Regardless of the challenges David may faced in life, I’ll remember him as a kind soul. He and I “met” many times while I walked the beat on 24th Street and he will be missed.

  5. Thank you for this story. I went to high school with this man and have watched him struggle over the years in teh neighborhood, always hoping he would pull through. I just saw him at SFGH in February. I remember him as very athletic in high school and wondered what happened. I wish his family the best and hope that they take his struggle as an opportunity to make changes in their own lives, as I decided to do after I lost my mother to alcohol. RIP David.

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