Canan Tasci, Staff Writer
Created: 01/19/2012 02:19:53 PM PST

CHINO HILLS – It was a celebration of his life rather than mourning for the late Sen. Ruben Ayala during his memorial service on Thursday.

More than 150 gathered in the multi-purpose room of Ruben S. Ayaya High School listening to multiple speakers describe Ayala as an “American first and Democrat second,” someone who lead by example, a citizen’s politician, a man of many accomplishments and “a giant among giants.”

But above all, Ayala was always described as someone who not only cared for his community but for his family.

“As long as the memory of Ruben remains, all of us are going to be a little stronger, a little braver and a lot prouder. Senator, we respect you, we thank you, and via con dios,” said Glenna Ramsay, who was Ayala High’s first principal when it opened its doors in 1990.

Ayala died Jan. 4 of natural causes at the Inland Christian Home in Ontario. He was 89.

A rosary service also was held Thursday at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church.

Both services were attended by family, friends, local and state officials.

Born and raised in Chino, Ayala graduated from Chino High School in 1941. After serving in the Marine Corps, he was elected to the Chino school board.

Ayala was also Chino’s first elected mayor in 1964 and was a member of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and for more than 20 years he served as a state senator.

When Ayala was elected to the Senate in 1974, he was the first Mexican-American to serve in the chamber since 1911.

In addition to Ayala High, parks and streets are also named in his honor and in 2005 Ayala wrote an autobiography, “Up From 2nd Street.”

More recently, he was recognized by members of the Chino Citizens Recognition Committee as the 2011 Hall of Fame Recipient.

The award was presented to his youngest son, Gary Ayala, at the Tuesday Chino City Council meeting.

“When I was teaching government (to seniors) at Chino High School he would come into my classroom and talk to the kids about what his daily duties were and Irene, his wife, would always be in the back of the room signing up kids to vote, that is if they could,” said Laurentine Gates, who met Ayala in 1965 when she was serving on an advisory board.

She said Ayala was a frequent to her classroom in the late 1970s.

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