BRENTWOOD -- It probably came as little surprise to those who knew him, but Gary Agopian scripted out much of his own celebration of life service -- and wanted those who attended to leave inspired to make a difference.
More than 500 people, including droves of political leaders from the region, family, friends from church and community members turned out to Golden Hills Community Church to pay their respects to the late Antioch councilman Saturday afternoon.
"We're all together today to remember a really remarkable man," said the Rev. Larry Adams, pastor of Golden Hills. "A really good man. (Gary) knew that God has a purpose in this day, for all of us."
Agopian, a 19-year Antioch resident elected to the City Council in 2010 who was also a longtime business administrator and real estate agent, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor last September. Despite the grim news, he served out his council term until his health wouldn't allow. He slipped into a coma on July 21 and died a week later at age 57.
The service of inspirational words, music and videos centered mainly on Agopian's unwavering belief in Jesus Christ, while also offering glimpses of him as a proud father and grandfather.
Agopian's brother-in-law Randon Lane, brother Steven Agopian and three children, Heather Renard, Corey and Jason, gave remarks, most including anecdotes about his ability to be a voice of reason and intelligence, his boundless energy and integrity.
Some of Agopian's proudest moments included handing all three children their high school diplomas as a school board trustee and baptizing them, they said.
Heather, the oldest child, spoke about how she was her father's "pumpkin," and memories of their quality time such as making puzzles and hiking, Gary cheering on their sports activities, walking her down the aisle and seeing the birth of his granddaughter, Kaylei.
"The time he had with her was very sweet. You could see the love he had for her in his eyes," she said, fighting back tears. "When he couldn't talk anymore, I would walk in the room with Kaylei and you could see his face light up. Dad taught me so much about life, not by his words but by his actions, and that's a legacy I want to pass on."
Many in the crowd were moved to tears at the end of a photo collage, especially as the last few pictures showed Agopian cooing over his granddaughter, who was born a week before his cancer diagnosis.
Among those in tears were Jackie and Robert Rosselli of Pittsburg, fellow Golden Hills members who served in the greeting ministry with Gary.
"Gary was just a wonderful human being. We just love him and Robin. His faith is just contagious," Jackie Rosselli said after the service.
Added Robert: "We're grieving, but he's in good shape."
Agopian's faith and service were intertwined, as he could be spotted with community members cleaning up graffiti or picking up abandoned shopping carts.
Agopian continued waging war against graffiti while on the council, creating a committee to fight tagging.
He also helped push forward a complicated annexation of 600 acres of industrial land to Antioch's northeast.
Friend Ron Bernal said Gary wanted those in attendance to "not leave this place unchanged," and for everyone to do their part to help the homeless and needy.
"Gary's goal is to help give them hope beyond their current circumstances," Bernal said. "He wants us to have compassion and look at them as human beings and not as some statistic or problem we're trying to fix."
The City Council recognized Agopian's service with a proclamation at Tuesday's meeting.
The family has requested any donations be made to: Bay Area Rescue Mission, Agopian Fund, P.O. Box 1112, Richmond, 94802.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.