Gene Artemow, a fixture on Pleasanton's Main Street for many years, died two weeks ago in a nursing home in Castro Valley after a bout from pneumonia.
Alicia Finken, a lead barista at Tully's Coffee, put together photos and a poem on a cardboard memorial that rests among the flowers in front of Tully's at the corner of Main Street and Angela.
"The poem was one I found online. I gave it a mild edit of my own and made it more personal for Gene," Finken said. "I knew him for about seven years. I'd sit out and talk to him before work. He was always helpful."
He once showed her a card, which was expired, that showed he'd been a security guard.
"He thought he was in charge of keeping stores safe downtown," Finken said, "and ironically enough a week after he passed someone broke into High Tech Burrito."
"He was just a nice guy," said artist Gary Winter, who is also a regular at Tully's. "He was around 64 years old."
For awhile Gene lived in the Victorian two-story house on Angela behind Café Main but when it sold he began to sleep in one of the two cars he owned.
"Nobody ever bothered him," Winter said. "Everyone was nice to him, and he was nice to everybody."
Realtor Deborah Cilk got to know Gene when her office was on Angela Street.
"He was a fixture in downtown Pleasanton as long as I can remember," she wrote in an email. "No matter what time of day it was, he'd be guarding his post at the corner by Tully's or on his dedicated chair behind Cafe Main.
"You couldn't miss the 'gentle giant' who stood about 6 feet 3 with a full head of gray hair that sometimes grew to shoulder length. He was tall and rail thin, with piercing blue eyes, a deep tan and a genuine, toothless grin. Cigarettes were his constant companion and his Suburban was his faithful steed," she continued.
"He was the self-appointed keeper of the watch for our little downtown. He was quick to share stories of his days as a security guard, or regale of his youth or his life experience.
"He'd delight in sharing the latest news of the newest businesses moving in -- and yes, he knew all the gossip. How could he not? His perch outside Tully's was his daily news feed, where business deals were consummated and friendships were forged.
"Some mistook him as a vagrant or a panhandler. If those misconceptions bothered him, he never let on. Not much bothered him, really. He would try to see the good in people and was quick to share a friendly greeting or a word of encouragement. He would gladly share a cup of coffee, and he appreciated when his friends would share their resources, their car repair skills, their 'extras' and most importantly -- their time.
"His was a simple life. His possessions were few but his basic needs were met and he was happy. A cigarette -- a cup of coffee -- and a place to keep watch into the window of his little world."