SAN FRANCISCO - More than 100 people gathered in San Francisco Sunday to say goodbye to a woman who has been called "The Mother of Glide Memorial Church" and "The First-Lady of the Tenderloin.
Janice Mirikitani was the co-founder of The Glide Foundation, along with her husband, the Reverend Cecil Williams. She died suddenly on July 29 at age 80.
The former poet laureate of San Francisco was a tireless advocate for social justice, always working to improve the lives of anyone who needed a helping hand.
Many say she was the embodiment of strength, love, and compassion.
On Sunday afternoon, her accomplishments and legacy were on full display during a celebration of her life.
Outside Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco's Tenderloin, the crowd learned that Janice Mirikitani was many things to many people -- wife, mother, mentor, champion, advocate, and much more.
"Jan was my friend. She was an amazing woman, a supporter of me and so many other young women in this city," said San Francisco Mayor, London Breed.
The one thing she was to everyone was a shining light that went out too soon.
"My heart is aching just like the rest of you. Her brilliance, her wisdom, her passion, that gusty laugh that she would do and throw hands up in the air. You just fell in love with that," said congregation Lay Leader, Reggie Johnson.
"Janice was a force to be reckoned with. I’ve long admired her remarkable life story, her courage, her passion, her compassion, her artistry, her activism," said Renel Brooks-Moon, friend and mistress of ceremonies.
Mirikitani began working at Glide Memorial Church in the mid 60’s as an administrative assistant, where she met Williams.
The two married in 1982.
Together they built The Glide Foundation.
While Williams was the face, Mirikitani was the bedrock of something that grew into an institution serving the underserved, doing work recognized by even the White House.
"She provided such a powerful voice knowing all people, whatever their circumstances deserved to be seen and heard and treated with dignity," said Vice-President Kamala Harris.
As a child, Mirikitani and her family were forced to live in a US internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War Two, and she survived sexual abuse from a stepfather, tragedies that informed her devotion to issues of social justice.
The white worn by the Glide Ensemble symbolized the purity of Mirikitani’s motivation to help all she could through her work.
"Through her poetry, her ministry, her community service Jan brought love, light hope and joy to all who knew her," said Nancy Pelosi, US Speaker of the House.
A lengthy list of more than 30 speakers both live and via video shared messages of Mirikitani’s devotion to others, especially those without a voice.
Her husband said "she" became their voice.
"And I’m not just talking about the voice that you hear. I’m talking about the voice that is present that we call it soul," said Williams. "Jan became a potent voice of helping people find their way. She has the soul and heart of reaching into the lives of people and saying, "I got you."