By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 7, 2008
Family, friends and members of the business community crowded St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Alpharetta on Wednesday, Jan. 30, to say goodbye to beloved Lydia Alvarado.
Alvarado worshipped at Marietta’s St. Ann Church, but with the large number of people paying respects, her family moved the funeral to the larger church.
“She packed the church. It was a Sunday service with a full house,” said her older brother, Arthur Macias.
Some 300 people are estimated to have attended the mid-week funeral.
The mother of two was known to be outgoing, a friendly face to anyone who needed a friend, to give “a little bit of comfort,” as Macias put it.
The mourners came from across the community to remember her at Mass. English-speakers sat beside members of the Hispanic community. The local business community joined them as they paid their respects.
“I thank the Lord that God gave her to us for 39 years,” Macias said.
Alvarado was murdered as she worked the cash register at the family-owned El Azteca grocery story here Alpharetta Highway.
A gang of robbers shot her and roughed up customers at the store. The family wants to make sure justice is done by offering a $50,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the gunmen, according to Macias.
Frank Wilbanks, a long-time council member for the city of Roswell, said Alvarado was a smart businesswoman who never forgot to treat people with dignity.
“She would just help families in a need. She’d see they had something to eat,” said Wilbanks. He came to know the family through Macias’ restaurant, and Alvarado’s parents are his neighbors.
“I never had anything hit me much harder than that did,” he said about hearing of Alvarado’s death.
The Chicago-born Alvarado moved with her family to metro Atlanta in the 1980s. She graduated from Roswell High School and quickly learned the ropes of operating a business. She stepped in to run the Mexican restaurant operated by Macias when the strain was burning him out.
Then in her early 20s, Alvarado learned the trade by observation and hands-on experience.
“She was bright, hard working. She always cared for people,” Macias said.
Alvarado took over the grocery story started by her parents. She planned to wind down her responsibilities at the store soon to spend time with her two children, Jessica, who is 12, and Mercedes, 11.
At the store, Alvarado kept up an unusual practice these days. She kept a ledger and noted store credit extended to people who needed a bit of help, Macias said.
Her openness to help anyone is why people from across cultures and language barriers mourned her death, he said. “She didn’t discriminate. There are people in need of every race,” he said.