Postal worker Joseph Ileto mourned as President Clinton sends condolences
August 15, 1999
WHITTIER, California -- More than 250 people gathered to mourn U.S. postal worker Joseph Ileto, gunned down allegedly by white supremacist Buford Furrow Jr.
The Rev. William Martinez said Ileto's "senseless killing" and the "senseless shootings of innocent people at the Jewish center," where five people were wounded, left Americans with emotions encompassing "anger, bitterness, resentment and hate."
The mourners at the funeral in Whittier, the Los Angeles suburb where Ileto and his family lived, heard a congressman read messages of condolence from President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore to the family of the 39-year-old Philippines-born mail carrier.
Clinton, in his message to the Ileto family, said he and first lady Hillary Clinton were sorry to learn of his death, adding: "Violence in our society hurts all of us, but what you have had to endure is personal."
'Tragically shortened life'
Rev.Martinez urged the congregation in the chapel of the Rose Hills Memorial Park to remember the values that Ileto had displayed throughout his "tragically shortened life," and to remember his faith in his fellow men rather than the "hatred and the ignorance that we see on television and in our daily lives."
Furrow is accused of shooting and killing Ileto in Los Angeles Tuesday less than an hour after opening fire at the community center in the San Fernando Valley, badly wounding three little boys and two female workers. Prosecutors say Furrow has told investigators that he considered Ileto a "good target of opportunity" to kill because he was a nonwhite and worked for the federal government.
Learned chess at age 7
Ileto's sister-in-law, Deena, told the congregation about "Jojo," as his family called him, recalling that he moved from his native Philippines to Los Angeles at age 14 with his mother, father, two sisters and two brothers.
"Jojo" was taught to play chess by his father at age 7 and went on to become a chess master -- one of the highest levels in the game, said Deena Ileto, married to one of Ileto's brothers.
Despite her own tears, she brought laughter to the audience when she described how people laughed at Ileto's jokes even though they did not understand the punch lines because he was laughing so hard as he told the joke.
"He had a warm smile and a warm heart. He was a reliable and dependable person that you could always count on. Even though Jojo will never be physically with us, he will always be deep in our hearts," she said, openly crying.
Ileto's sister, Raquel, told how she called him "Quya," meaning older brother in the Tagalog language of the Philippines.
Alleged shooter pleaded not guilty
"He was my older brother and he was a scholar," she said.
"I love you Quya," she added as her tears flowed freely.
U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat who represents the San Fernando district west of Los Angeles where the shootings took place, read the messages of condolence from Clinton, Gore and California's two senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.
Gore said Furrow's alleged actions had "shocked America and torn the hearts of all of us."
Furrow has pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of murder in killing Ileto and faces state charges of attempted murder for allegedly shooting the five people in the Jewish center. Authorities have said he also has confessed to those shootings in interviews with detectives.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Postal worker shot by L.A. gunman buried
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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