SANTA FE SPRINGS – Flags on city buildings waved at half-staff Thursday as hundreds of city officials, residents and family members attended funeral services for a longtime employee who died of cancer. Lupe Contreras, who worked for 18 years for the city, died of cancer May 5 – eight days before her 37th birthday. Mike Mendez, director of parks and recreation services, where Contreras worked for most of her career, said flying the flag at half-staff “is usually done for the president of the United States,” but “we decided to do it because of how she impacted everyone” in the city. Contreras worked with area high school students and also helped create the city’s Tiny Tots preschool program that helps young children prepare for kindergarten. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsShe had stepped down from her position earlier this year because of her illness. “She just has done amazing things in my life,” said Marla Tejeda, who took over the preschool program. “She always inspired me to do the best in my life. She encouraged me to go back to school.” About 400 people attended a funeral Mass for Contreras at St. John of God Catholic Church in Norwalk, where Contreras lived. About 50 city employees attending the services wore red staff shirts and jackets in her memory. In a homily, the Rev. Bernard Leheny of St. John of God said Contreras was an optimistic person whose life, though cut short, was “well-lived.” “She accomplished in 36 years what many of us do in longer periods of time,” he said. Mendez said Contreras’ philosophy on life mirrored the Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz’s popular song, “La Vida Es un Carnaval,” “Life Is a Carnival.” The song’s lyrics go: “Life is a carnival. It’s more beautiful to live singing.” Contreras is survived by her parents, Celia and Gilbert Contreras; brothers Gilbert and Rick Contreras; and sister Frances Contreras. [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3024160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!