Tribe Leader Fran Yorba Laid to Rest

Hundreds overfilled Serra Chapel, then stopped traffic as they walked to Old Mission Cemetery to say a final good-bye to the vice chair of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians.

There were the great sobs of pain and sorrow and the laughs at treasured memories expected at a funeral for someone taken too soon.

Hundreds came out Thursday to celebrate the life of Francine Pala Sommers Yorba, who died suddenly last week at the age 53. 

The vice chair of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Yorba was eulogized at Mission San Juan Capistrano’s Serra Chapel, then buried with other city leaders at the Old Mission Cemetery.

“It wasn’t’ expected that God would call Francine so quickly. She was taken so suddenly,” said Father Tim Peters.

“She had such a tough personality,” he said. She was known to say things like, “I took you into this world, and I can take you out.”

Yorba’s daughter Lynetta work dark sunglasses, but built up the courage to address the mourners, who filled Serra Chapel to capacity and overflowed out several doors.

“We lay to rest an amazing, gracious and selfless woman. We celebrate the lives she touched,” she said.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better mother,” said daughter Sherri. Yorba had four daughters and three grandchildren.

Peters said he understood that family and friends were hurting, even though no mere mortals could ever know the precise pain. But God knows.

“God in his infinite wisdom, something that we don’t understand, called her,” he said.

Peters said he hoped all could see Jesus through the life Yorba lived, and that they would hear the call to return to prayer, to the church and confession, and to reconcile with those they disagreed.

“Among the Juaneño Indians, bad feelings don’t exist, right,” he said, to laughter.

The group then walked up Ortega Highway, across the I-5 interchange and to the Old Misison Cemetery.

It was the melding of cultures, as Catholic prayers morphed into Ajachemen songs. When the tractor to lift the lid for the casket failed to start – a dead battery which prompted one mourner to comment, “Franny is laughing above about this” – daughter Lynetta called out: “Sing! Sing for my mother!”

“When you leave here, don’t leave with a sad heart. She wouldn’t have wanted that,” said Dennis Sommers, Yorba’s brother. “She was never sad. She was always happy.”


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