Highlights of San Diego service for Randy, Rodney and Walter

Regal said he and his “ever Trumpster” friend Walter “Jimmy” Jones made a bet last September.

If Donald Trump were re-elected, Regal would buy Jones “a juicy fat steak dinner with all the trimmings.”

If Joe Biden won, Jones would buy Regal — the only name he gave at a memorial service for March 15 tunnel crash victims Jones and two other homeless men — a broccoli dinner (“I’m a vegan. I can’t help it.”)

When Trump lost, Regal said Jones, 61, was visibly upset and hurting.

“I saw his pain. I felt his pain,” Regal told 100 mourners Sunday at the San Diego Civic Center. “Walter looked me in the eyes and said: ‘Regal, enjoy your broccoli dinner,’ and handed me a $20 bill.”

Regal said he stuffed his face at a Chinese restaurant and filled his stomach with broccoli.

“No mercy,” he said.

But he had change left from the twenty — and returned it to Jones, who was pleasantly surprised.

“Walter taught me to keep my word, my promise, no matter how painful it might be,” Regal said. “Through his pain, he kept his promise. … Walter’s words didn’t fall to the ground, leaving a plume of dust.”

At an 80-minute interfaith service for Jones, Randy Ferris and Rodney Diffendal, Regal remarked: “A lot of negative things are being said about the homeless in San Diego. These critics didn’t know about Walter. He was a man of integrity. Rest in Peace, Walter. You, sir, have earned it.”

A sister of Ferris, Sherry Kruska, recalled the Marine veteran of Vietnam as “funny, outrageous and crazy. … People don’t understand you.”

But he didn’t drink, said the sister, standing with two other tearful family members.

“That was one of his biggest fears — being hit by a drunk driver,” Kruska said.

The tragedy set in when he didn’t show up for lunch that rainy day in March. “I called his phone and it was shut off,” she said. “Bye, Jimmy, I love you.”

Craig Martin Voss, 72, was arrested in the incident, and faces charges of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence.

Amber Joseph, who met Ferris nine years ago when she was homeless, said he was like the “light of my day,” and helped her navigate the streets, telling her where it was safe to sleep.

“He was like a big brother to me,” said Joseph, earning applause when she announced that she found permanent housing not long ago — “I owe it to Randy…. When it’s time to get serious, Randy was serious. He kept a close eye on me.”

The homeless community was shaken by the triple fatality at the B Street tunnel under San Diego City College, she said — all the way to “El Cajon city, they felt that.”

“A lot of things are happening on the streets that nobody knows about,” she told the mostly socially distanced audience, including several men injured in the crash. “I’ve seen a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have seen. I love you, Randy. You will be very, very missed.”

Randy Engel said he had known Randy Ferris for 10-12 years.

Engel said Ferris, 65, was ever loyal to a disabled friend named Tim.

“I never saw him mad or angry,” he said of Ferris. “Very humble. Took care of Tim until his passing a few months ago. … I never heard Randy Ferris complain about anything.”

A La Mesa church volunteer said Ferris was her friend too: “He just lit up the place. Joy in his face. I looked forward to him every week. He was just a bright shining light.”

Susan Fleming of the Third Avenue Charitable Organization — or TACO — said her group gave Ferris the jacket he died in — which also converted into a shelter.

She said a friend of Ferris — whom she called “Glen” — told her of being with Ferris that morning and deciding to go back to sleep.

“As Glen was leaving, he said: ‘You know, Randy owed me $5,” Fleming recalled. “I’m not going to hold that against him.”

Fleming pulled $5 from a stash of cash and gave it to Glen, who said: “How did you know Randy owed me $5?”

“A little bird told me,” she replied.

Only Rodney Diffendal, 40, went unremarked during the memorial event.

Uriah Pryce, a 75-year-old retired commercial fisherman, also shared stories of Ferris* with Times of San Diego while waiting for the 3 p.m. service.

The native of Jamaica who fished in waters off Alaska, California and the Gulf Coast, said he met Ferris — a “simple person” — at a local park in 1989, and shared in “drinking and smoking his weed.”

Ferris grew some for himself in the San Diego River bed, Pryce said, and would panhandle for a small amount of money for daily smokes. Never seeking more money than needed for pot and snacks.

“That’s all I want — just $5 to … buy my weed,” he told Pryce. “That’s all I need.”

Pryce said he respected that — “as long as he got his $5 worth of weed, he’s all right. He was an outdoor person.”

Before the crash, Pryce tried to get Ferris, who was losing his sight, off the street — taking him to John Savidge, Ladle Fellowship director at First Presbyterian Church of San Diego. It didn’t get him off the street for good.

Pryce said that until five years ago, Ferris was the only person living under Balboa Park’s Cabrillo Bridge over state Route 163.

But Ferris had a friend — “a renegade from Montana, more sicker than him.”

The unnamed friend would give Ferris $5 for water, who dutifully fetched it.

One day, the friend said: “Hey, Rodney, I have a $50,000 insurance policy, and you’re the beneficiary.”

About a year ago, Ferris returned to their camp and learned the friend had died.

“He came to me and said: ‘I’m $50,000 rich,'” Pryce recalled. “I said: ‘How are you going to get that money?'”

When Pryce asked Ferris if he knew the insurance company, “he said no.”

After an introduction by organizer Rosemary Johnston, the service began with a prayer by Father Joe Carroll, who has sheltered people experiencing homelessness for decades.

Next was a song by the Voices of Our City Choir — “Love, Rescue Me” — as 30 members and musicians performed together for the first time in more than a year (since receiving the Golden Buzzer on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”).

Then Rabbi Scott Meltzer of downtown’s Ohr Shalom Synagogue read a passage (in English and Hebrew) from Deuteronomy.

“There will never cease to be needy ones in your land,” he recited after beseeching the community to “open heart and hand or God will be very displeased.”

Penny Bridges, senior pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Bankers Hill, said: “We are all children of God. … There is no human condition or experience that can cut us off from the love of God.”

Yusef Miller of the Islamic Society of North County mourned the “loss of our three brothers.”

“It is not the fault of the needy that they are needy,” he said. “It is the breakdown of the community, city and county. It’s not their fault to be criminalized.”

Miller said of “the wayfarer” — refugees from other states and countries — have become victims. “It is a failure on our heart, soul and civilization.”

Homeless advocate Michael McConnell said: “All too often I don’t think we actually see the sons and daughters, the brothers and sisters, the fathers, the mothers that represent the people, that are the people.”

Steph Johnson, director of the Voices choir, said afterward it was very important for the group to have attended.

“A lot of times, people who pass away in the street don’t have any [recognition],” she said. “There’s no remembrance. No ceremony. We’ve lost people in the choir and always try to memorialize them.”

The choir was unanimous about being there Sunday, she said. 

“A lot of our choir members are housed,” Johnson said with pride, but “there’s other individuals experiencing homelessness, sitting around us. They’re so fatigued. They’re so exhausted mentally; they’re so struggling.”

She said her group knew none of the crash victims but hope to “just keep bringing the energy into the solutions. Energy for more healing, energy for more change.”

The service concluded with Benjamin Scott Johnston, a traditional Celtic bagpiper, playing “Danny Boy,” walking slowly off into nearby shrubbery shade, the Voices choir singing “Amazing Grace” and Canon Lisa Churchill of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral swinging an incense burner.

Final blessings were made, and organizer Johnston noted Father Joe would turn 80 the next day.

The audience joined in singing “Happy Birthday.”

*Correction: An earlier version of this story quoted Uriah Pryce as recalling his friendship with Rodney Diffendal. But Times was informed Pryce meant to say Randy Ferris.

Updated at 2:18 p.m. April 17, 2021

Chris Stone contributed to this report.