RODEO -- An overflow crowd gathered Friday in St. Patrick's Church on a misty morning to remember Susie Ko as a caring teacher, a standard-bearing sibling and a loving family matriarch.
"My mother's calling in life was to care for others with utmost consideration," said Sandy Ko, the oldest of Susie and Kelvin Ko's four children. "She cared for her family, her elders, her community, her students and, most recently, for me post-baby."
Susie Ko, 55, was found stabbed to death Oct. 5 in the Hercules home she shared with her husband. Two suspects, Darnell Keith Washington and Tania Washington, were arrested in Seatac, Wash., five days later. The Contra Costa County district attorney is expected to file charges against the pair next week.
Ko's death sent shock waves through the community where the family had lived for more than 30 years. It was the first homicide in Hercules since 2010 and only the fifth in the past 12 years.
The church was decorated with hundreds of peach-and-yellow pennants. Each pennant bore a remembrance posted on Ko's memorial Facebook page.
Four small cherry trees sat in the middle of the sanctuary. According to a handout given to mourners, Susie and Kelvin Ko planted a similar cherry sapling in their front yard in 1981, shortly after the birth of their first child. The week before Susie Ko's death, the tree had to be removed because its roots had grown into the house's foundation.
"I suspect she's already replacing that tree she worked so hard to take down," said the Rev. Larry Young, pastor of Saint Patrick's Church.
Young also took note of the young mourners in attendance whom Ko had instructed as a kindergarten and second-grade teacher at the parish school.
"Are we sad? No," said Young, who asked mourners to celebrate Ko's life. "Do we miss her? Yes. The most important thing is, these young people she taught, you take her place now."
Ko's brother Danny Tang Sr., a self-described "C student, and proud of it" as a boy, recalled achieving straight A's with his sister's encouragement.
"I was her first student," he said. "She set an example that's not easy to follow. She told me, 'Danny, in life, don't do the easy thing. That's for other people. It's not for the Tang family.' "
Sandy Ko asked her mother's friends and family to "remember all the love, light and happiness she brought into our lives. Let's all make sure Susie will be remembered through our actions. She would be so proud."
Kelvin Ko had the congregation laughing and dabbing their eyes as he described meeting his future wife in San Francisco's Chinatown when she was just 15, and his repeated attempts to persuade her to go out with him.
"Finally, she called and agreed to go to church with me," he said. "I told myself, 'Bingo!' "
He said he proposed by phone from Michigan, where he had been sent on a three-month business assignment. Missing her terribly, he called and asked her to marry him. "She said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Thank God.'"
"I thank the Lord for giving me Susie for 40 years," he said. "It was a wonderful dream."
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him at Twitter.com/garyscribe.