Howard Barry Pompel, one of the 25 people killed in Friday's Metrolink commuter train crash, was remembered today at a Simi Valley service as a vivacious, caring man who gave his time to myriad temple and community causes.
At least 100 people gathered at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center auditorium, formerly the Temple Ner Tamid, where Pompel had once been a board member.
The service was one of the first memorial observations for the train crash victims who perished when their Metrolink commuter train crashed head on into a freight train in Chatsworth.
A funeral will be held at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles today for Los Angeles Police Officer Officer Spree Desha, 35, also a passenger on the Metrolink train.
At the memorial for Pompel, 69, Rabbi Nosson Gurary of Chabad of Simi Valley said:
"When I look around the room here, I know Howard has affected many people. . . . Just by looking around the room and seeing the lives that he has touched, I see that he was a remarkable person."
Friend Barry Selbst certainly could attest to that. In an interview before the service began, Selbst, who knew Pompel from the temple, was among those who talked about Pompel's life of community service, including Rotary, Kiwanis, PTA, Elks and the local Chamber of Commerce.
Pompel had worked at the Los Angeles City Employees Club, and friends and family fondly recalled how he helped run the annual Simi Valley Day parade.
"He would do everything and anything," Selbst said. "He was always there for everybody. He would never turn down a job."
Pompel's son, Cliff Pompel, said he wanted the memorial service open to the public because so many people had known his dad, who had moved from Simi Valley to Moorpark. Cliff Pompel thanked the emergency workers, giving special mention to a friend LAPD Officer David Millan. The officer took a description of Howard Pompel and looked for him amid the wreckage, and he was able to tell Cliff Pompel what had become of his father.
Barrie Winston, Howard Pompel's daughter, told those gathered for the service that her dad was "just a big teddy bear."
"He was loving and caring, never thought of himself," she said.
During today's service for Desha, the following streets will be closed between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.: Temple Street between Alameda Street and Grand Avenue; Hill Street between 3rd and 1st streets; and Judge John Aiso Street between Temple and 1st.
Traffic will be allowed to cross Temple at Los Angeles, Main and Spring streets and at Broadway until 8:00am.