Hundreds of family and friends gathered in Santa Barbara on Sunday to remember Mark “Marky” Meza Jr., a 20-year-old Carpinteria High School graduate killed in the Nov. 7 Borderline Bar & Grill massacre in Thousand Oaks.
Meza was one of 12 people gunned down by a Newbury Park man who entered the popular country music dance hall just before midnight and started shooting.
Also among the dead was Ventura County sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, one of the first law-enforcement officers on the scene, who rushed in and traded fire with the suspect. The gunman then killed himself.
Meza, a former Santa Barbara City College student who recently started working at the Borderline, would have celebrated his 21st birthday Monday.
Before the service at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, many looked at the display of photographs of Meza playing T-ball, wearing his high school graduation attire and inner-tubing. Guests also wrote messages of love and support on stones.
Officers with the Santa Barbara and Thousand Oaks police departments and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department paid their respects, too.
Speakers remembered Meza’s smile, hugs, art, music and photography.
“Some of the pictures are truly incredible photos,” said Kevin Marsh, an uncle. “He had a unique eye for art.”
Marsh recalled cherished family memories, including holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and spoke of visits to lakes, wakeboarding and a trip to Maui.
“Marky was always the first one to volunteer to help out with all of the little things, from setting it up to cleaning up and everything in-between,” he said of the family gatherings.
“I have been thinking about so many great memories … with Marky and his cousins swimming around in the lake and jumping off of the boat.”
Many of the guests wiped away tears and embraced as Michael Jackson’s “Smile” played over the speakers. Tissues and programs were available for those in attendance.
The Rev. Erik Wiebe, associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara, opened with a moment of silence in a show of solidarity for the Borderline victims and other grieving communities.
“This young man brought such light and joy into the world,” he said of Meza.
The service included a slideshow of Meza, and two of his original productions played over the speakers.
Matthew Drain, whose son was a close friend of Meza, described his impact.
“He always came in the door with a big smile, (and) always a hug,” Drain said. “He was a selfless young man.
“He was truly loved by his peers and by everybody who came in contact with him. His smile lit up a room, and you never wanted him to leave that room.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the Mark “Marky” Meza Jr. Foundation, in care of Chase Bank, 1924 Cliff Drive in Santa Barbara.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.