ALAMEDA -- The hurt remains raw for the family and friends of Raquel Gerstel, the 15-year-old girl shot and killed in Oakland last month with her friend Bobbie Sartain, who was 16. But memories of Raquel still helped ease the pain Monday as they gathered to celebrate the teen's life.
"She was the woman of the house," said Barton Gerstel, the girl's father. "She loved to cook and take care of things. She wanted things to be just right. I'm lost without her."
About 100 people attended the celebration at the Eagles Hall on Alameda Avenue. Many wore purple and pink ribbons, Raquel's favorite colors. A disc jockey played music and a slideshow featured childhood photos of Raquel.
Dominique Nelson, 14, first
The two girls would listen to Pretty Ricky and the Ying Yang Twins, text friends and hang out together.
"We would be in my living room, belly dancing," Nelson said. "We had a lot of good times."
They quickly became friends because both shared a home life that was sometimes rocky, Nelson said.
"She was my everything," Nelson said. "If I did something, she would do it with me. Even getting into trouble. Now I will have to get into trouble without her."
Courtnee Allen, 14, attends Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo, where Raquel was a freshman.
"Raquel used to come up to me as I was getting dressed in PE and
Once in class, boys were teasing Raquel about a hat she was wearing, Allen said. Raquel got up and walked out, despite the teacher telling her to stop.
"She was mad and leaving no matter what," Allen said. "That's the kind of person she was."
But DazJane Whisenton, 14, said Raquel also embraced life.
"If a party was going on, Raquel would be right there," said Whisenton, who also attends Arroyo High School. "She would have everybody dancing on their feet."
So far no arrests have been made in the deaths of Raquel and Bobbie Sartain.
The girls were found shot multiple times about 6 a.m. on Nov. 25, lying on the asphalt in the 2600 block of Minna Avenue near Brookdale Park.
It's unclear what the girls were doing before they were killed. But family members say they stopped by a mobile home that belongs to Bobbie's uncle at High Street and MacArthur Boulevard before they reportedly walked to a nearby Union 76 gas station on High Street.
Neighbor Jed Hamilton, 36, ran outside after hearing the shots and held one girl's hand as she was dying.
Bullets peppered a nearby car and three rounds hit a single-story home on nearby Brookdale Avenue.
"She was a sweet little girl," Erika Aguilar said about Raquel at Monday's event.
Aguilar first met Raquel about eight years ago, when they were neighbors on Taylor Avenue in Alameda. The girl showed up at her garage sale, Aguilar said.
Before long, Raquel was a daily visitor, calling Aguilar "Mom" and often spending the night with her family.
"We were inseparable," Aguilar said. "She just wanted to be around me. She needed a friend."
Aguilar last saw Raquel the day before she was killed, when Raquel joined Aguilar's family at Round Table Pizza in San Leandro.
They talked what was happening in their lives, Aguilar said, a typical everyday conversation.
"I always told her that we are in each other's lives for a reason," Aguilar said. "That we are blessed to have one another. I know she needed me. I am still trying to figure out why she was in my life. But I also know she was put here for a purpose in all our lives."
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him at Twitter.com/peter_hegarty.
The family of Raquel Gerstel has set up a foundation to pay for her funeral expenses and to help the victims of violence. For information, go to www.raquelgerstelfoundation.com.