07 February 2009

RIP: Herbert Hamrol

Herbert Heimie Hamrol
10 Jan 1903 - 5 Feb 2009

ZUI this article from the San Francisco Chronicle:
Herbert Heimie Hamrol was the last known survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and right up until the minute he died today at the age of 106, he packed every moment as if it were his last.

Mr. Hamrol's still-crisp memories of the smoke and the ruin served as the only true time machine left for a catastrophe most people know only from ancient photographs. But that was only a part of what Mr. Hamrol brought to the plate when he woke up each morning at his home in Daly City.

He was also the oldest known grocery clerk in San Francisco, punching a clock until a week before he died at a local hospital of complications from pneumonia. And if you were lucky enough to talk with him, you would likely learn a thing or two.


As recently as 2000, there were 16 survivors at the annual quake commemoration, held at 5:12 a.m. at Lotta's Fountain to mark the exact moment the quake began. But last year, on the 102nd anniversary, Mr. Hamrol was the only survivor present.


Mr. Hamrol remembered little of the actual quake, being just 3 years old when it happened. But the nuggets he did recall became more important as the years rolled by and older survivors passed away.

"I remember my mother carrying me down the stairs," he said last spring. He also remembered staying in Golden Gate Park while smoke filled the skies and rubble lay heaped everywhere.

"We don't get an earthquake every day, so we celebrate the one we had," he added. "It was a beautiful earthquake."

Mr. Hamrol was born in San Francisco on January 10, 1903. After graduating from the 6th grade he took a job delivering meat for a butcher. He also worked as phone company clerk and food wholesaler before settling in as a clerk at Andronico's market on Irving Street in 1967.


Mr. Hamrol's wife of 40 years, Cecilia, died in 1969. He always kept her picture in his room, and he told The Chronicle in 2003, "Every morning I say 'good morning' to her."


Mr. Hamrol is survived by another son in addition to Bill [Hamrol of Galt, California], Burt Hamrol of San Francisco; and five grandchildren.

ZUI also this article, dated 18 Apr 2006, from the New York Times.

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