Frisco’s Finest lowriders lined up outside St. Peter’s Church Wednesday as friends and family of Sandy Cuadra gathered outside for a mass honoring the one-year anniversary of Cuadra’s death.
Two of her sisters, Lisa Contreras and Patti Eng, greeted visitors as they entered the church. Eng sported the signature AquaNet hair-do and red lipstick that Cuadra and her friends wore during the 1980s when they were known as the Tiny Locas – a group of friends who lived, breathed and, some say, ruled the Mission.
Cuadra, who died last year at the age of 49 from cancer, was one of them.
Later, Cuadra worked for the Department of Public Works as head of the Graffiti Abatement Program, an earlier in her career she worked for the Real Alternatives Program, an alternative school where many Mission youth righted their lives. She was a life-long Giants fan and much beloved in the neighborhood. The low riders not only celebrate a culture, they run fundraisers including an annual toy drive for children.
“I feel blessed, happy. A lot of people remembering her, people send her well wishes,” said Lisa Contreras.
The mood brimmed with hopes for a win for the San Francisco Giants – a game that Cuadra would have been watching dressed in the same orange Giants jerseys that at least half of the 100 attending the memorial service wore.
Once everyone was settled in for the mass, word spread that Giants had scored two runs in the second inning. “She put us all together to celebrate together, remember that,” said Sandy’s brother-in- law who was in the crowd. Everyone smiled and cheered.
“I was hungry and Sandy gave me food,” said Father Doherty, said as he began a verse that resonated with everyone in the room. “I was thirsty and Sandy gave me drink. I felt alone and sad and Sandy gave me a hug. I was alone and maybe in prison, and Sandy came to visit me.”
“It was a nice mass, it spoke exactly to whom she was and what she stood up,” said Azucena Amador, who grew up with Cuadra. “I feel sad, but we are celebrating life, love and memories.”
Amador remembered visiting Cuadra when she was sick and then having the patient care for her – she left the visit with some beef stew that Cuadra had made her.
“I still can’t believe it’s been a year, it hurts a lot,” said Annette ‘Nightowl’ Fraticelo, who met Cuadra in the neighborhood when she was 14-years-old. Fraticelo said she missed Cuadra’s loyalty and sincerity. “No one can say bad things about her, in her 49 years of life, and I don’t know many people who can say that about themselves,” said Fraticelo.
“This is how many people loved my aunty Sandy, and probably more who couldn’t come [today],” said Miranda Contreras, Cuadra’s niece.
“It’s still hard to even imagine she’s gone because I talk about her every day and I think about her every day,” said Crip Aragon, who met Cuadra when she was 17 and attending Balboa High School. “It makes me feel good so many people showed up. She didn’t judge people, she was the first one to help. I remember she had a pot of beans ready for me, even in the pain she was” in when she was sick.
Aragon remembered losing her job. “I was living in Concord,” she said and Cuadra “ showed up with the car full of bags of groceries.”
Aragon’s newphew and Cuadra’s niece married in 1996. “We spent the holidays together, and everything,” she said.
When the Giants won the World Series in 2010, Cuadra made phone calls to city officials to have Frisco’s Finest low riders cruise in the parade.
Later on Wednesday evening, a set of the lowriders cruised up and down 24th Street celebrating two things: Sandy’s life and the Giants victory.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Frisco’s Finest were in the 2012 parade. It was the 2010 World Series, which the Giants also won. We regret the error.