San Bruno community marches to honor fallen friend

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Friday night a large group gathered to march to honor Bernabe Lactawen, a member of their community who impacted their lives with a bright smile.

This is a difficult time for one Bay Area community. They are devastated by a tragic and unexpected loss when 57-year-old Bernabe Lactawen who was struck and killed by a vehicle at the intersection of Jenevein Avenue and El Camino Real in San Bruno.

Friday night, a crowd of people gathered together to march in Bernabe's honor and a group of his friends ended the night at his favorite karaoke bar where he sang just one song - Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."

People say he had a childlike innocence about him and a contagious personality. He was a member of a community that needed and wanted his love.

Hotel clerk Vagish Upadmyay said, "He made friends within three seconds. You don't know him. Within three seconds, you will be his friend."

Bernabe was a fixture on a stretch of El Camino Real in San Bruno. And although he was mentally challenged, he remembered the names of every person he met in the city.

Each day, he would make his rounds with his replica wrestling belt in hand, waving to cars and greeting people with a smile and a hug.

San Bruno Fire Capt. Bill Forester said, "In fact, one day he lost his belt and our guys ordered a new one for him and gave him a wrestling belt."

Last Sunday, Bernabe's friends at Fire Station 51 responded to a call of a man fatally struck by a car on El Camino Real. It was Bernabe.

Bernabe's friend Sean Peradotto spoke to the crowd that gathered on Friday. She said, "If I went to every single place where Bernabe touched somebody, we would have been walking at least 50 miles tonight."

Bernabe's friend Krystyna Gogol began to tear up as she said, "I think we all need to learn from him and be able to say hi to each other, every day from now on, because that's what his lesson was."

Bernabe's sister and caretaker Rose Jose was overwhelmed by the countless stories of joyful encounters with Bernabe. She said, "This is what he did and this is what shows and this is what he came up with. Oh my God... oh God... thank you so much!"

Jose knew he was making friends, but she had no idea Bernabe was uniting a community.
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