Hundreds gather to remember Andrel Gaines

Many people remembered Gaines at his funeral service.

To say Gavilan College freshman Andrel Gaines was a great basketball player would be true, friends and family said – but it wouldn’t tell the whole story.
“He was a better son, a better grandson, a better cousin, a better nephew and a better friend,” Gaines’ uncle Anthony Avila said Saturday during a memorial service honoring the late 19-year-old, attended by an estimated 900 people at the Gavilan gymnasium. “Andrel had a way of touching all those he came in contact with.”
Gaines died Nov. 18 in a San Francisco hospital from injuries he suffered in an early morning car accident in Millbrae 12 days earlier. But it was Gaines’ life that was the focus Saturday, as those who knew him best – many dressed in black, many battling tears – put into words his influence.
“As a young kid, I looked up to Andrel,” said Travis Harris, who was a year behind Gaines in school. “I loved his smile. I loved everything about him. Don’t be sad that he’s gone. Cherish the memories we have of him. And he will be resting in Paradise.”
Friends belted original songs they wrote just for Gaines, and photos of the often-smiling young man flanked his closed casket near midcourt. The photos told tales of basketball games, graduations and his quiet moments spent with close friends.
After the two-hour service, pallbearers donning blue armbands bearing Gaines’ initials carried the casket into a waiting white hearse, which made its way to the St. Mary Cemetery for a brief, private burial.
Gaines was raised in Gilroy before spending 7th through 10th grades in San Jose. He returned to Gilroy to attend Gilroy High School for his senior season, where we played point guard and was honored as an all-league selection.
He was set to start for the Rams basketball team this season before the accident on U.S. Highway 101, which also injured two of his two teammates and two female friends riding along.
“I’ve asked, “Why does it have to happen to a young guy, to a good guy?’ It got me angry,” said Jeremy Dirks, who coached Gaines at GHS.
It was the outpouring of support for Gaines and his family – evident through mass followings on social media outlets Twitter and Facebook – that prompted what Dirks called a “real miracle.”
“It’s restored my faith in people, in God,” he said. “That is a lesson I’ve taken from all this – that people do care. This outpouring has renewed my spirit in people.”
Gaines has also inspired some upcoming changes at GHS, Dirks said. The Mustang alumni game, dormant for several years, will return each year in Gaines’ honor, and the school will create a scholarship fund bearing his name.
“It will be a way to celebrate him year in and year out,” said Dirks.

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