People in San Diego are mourning former South African president Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday.
Several locals from South Africa gathered at Cape Town restaurant in Miramar, which is set to open in a few weeks. The shared their memories of the iconic leader.
“To me, he was the greatest leader of modern times,” said South African native Alan Davis. “He was a man of integrity, and he brought people together. All that he went through, it’s just amazing he came out and looked at freedom for everyone.”
According to South African native Graham Perkett, about 30,000 South Africans live in San Diego. A group of them held a fundraiser last May to help achieve Mandela’s final wish.
“What he really wanted was a children’s hospital where all children of the world could attend,” Perkett said.
When Cape Town restaurant opens, it will feature South African food, dance and live sports. The restaurant will also display a painting called “Face of Change,” which shows Mandela with a wide smile (pictured above.)
La Jolla resident Rosemary Ryan was the former associate director of the Peace Corps in South Africa. She ran health programs, focusing on HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
“Madiba was very special. He wanted you to change the world from within and start with yourself,” Ryan said, choking back tears. “That is something I realized I had to do. So it's a great loss for us.”
Ryan’s brother-in-law was Mandela’s helicopter pilot. She says the leader arrived early to every function and would sometimes be ready to leave a half hour before takeoff.
Ryan say Mandela was known as Father, or “Tata."
Mandela was also the topic of conversation Thursday at Imperial Barber Shop in Encanto.
"The name Nelson Mandela means perseverance," Encanto resident Hudson Avery said.
"No matter what my circumstances are, I can overcome," he said. "When I think about him, I think about him as a person that did not let the world beat him."
WorldBeat Center Director Makeda Dread Cheatom echoed the same sentiment.
"He brings a freedom to all of us in his compassion, and his humbleness affects all of us and makes us stronger," Cheatom said.
The WorldBeat Center is planning an African dance and drum celebration to honor Mandela's life. It will be one of several events planned during Kwanzaa, which begins Dec. 26.