Former Contributor to the Westside Observer, Previous Roxie Cinema Co-Owner, Supporter of Independent Film and LGBT Activist – helped save the Historic Fallon Building from the Wrecking Ball.
Longtime San Francisco resident Tom Mayer, 62, passed away in late July from a massive heart attack suffered just steps away from the Castro Movie Theatre where he was delivering articles he had just written about the Jewish Film Festival.
Raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Mayer received his degree in film from Boston University where he lived from 1970 until moving to San Francisco in May 1976. An avid lover and supporter of independent film, Mr. Mayer was part owner of The Roxie Cinema from 1976 to 1983. A natural speaker, whose rich, charismatic voice had a resonantly authoritative ring with minimal effort, Tom never needed a mike to silence a crowd. He wrote about film in several media and lately had been a prominent editor on Wikipedia and a writer for online film publications.
An engaging, intelligent man with a wide variety of interests, Tom was very thoughtful of others, volunteering his time and skills in support of many local and national candidates”
Mayer was very involved in the leadership circle of Operation Upgrade – later known as the North Mission Association --for a number of years in the the mid-70’s shortly after he arrived in San Francisco. The group was started to combat the frequent arson attacks in the 16 th Street/Valencia area and expanded its vision to include fighting for low cost housing, starting a neighborhood business association, and a community newspaper called the North Mission News.
Passionate about fighting whatever he perceived to be wrong and unjust, Tom Mayer was the founder and instigator of the Friends of 1800, an organization he started to keep the LGBT Center from tearing down the Fallon Building at 1800 Market Street. Bright and outspoken about the cause, Tom understood the broader issues and knew the political battlefield and conflicts surrounding the proposed project. The Fallon Building is a significant Victorian and survivor of the Great 1906 Earthquake and Fire and marks the line where the fire was stopped. When the Fallon Building was finally landmarked on October 9, 1998, Tom was in the Mayor’s office along with Mark Leno, Tim Kelley, Gary Goad and Gerry Takano when Mayor Brown signed the designation legislation -- several months after the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, Planning Commision and Board of Supervisors voted for the designation.
Mr. Mayer was also instrumental in saving the historic Victoria Theater in the Mission District. A recent StoryCorps interview of Mr. Mayer’s life as an activist by his partner Luiz Netto is now in the Library of Congress collection.
An engaging, intelligent man with a wide variety of interests, Tom was very thoughtful of others, volunteering his time and skills in support of many local and national candidates. If you mentioned that a friend or family member was sick, he would always inquire about them. Tom learned a lot about computer software while working as a technical writer for Hitachi. Often seen at film festivals, and theatre openings, Mayer never missed the Annual SF Heritage Holiday Open House held at the Haas Lilienthal House. In spite of the high cost of living and too few economic opportunities to senior gay men, Tom made every effort to stay in San Francisco. Survived by his partner Luiz Netto, and one brother in Pittsburgh, Tom Mayer’s passion and energy will live on in the hearts and minds of all those he inspired.
Funeral services were held on Friday, August 21, at 10 a.m. at Most Holy Redeemer Church, 100 Diamond St., San Francisco.
Linda Ayres-Frederick, Theatre Critic/Writer.Westside Observer.
Jerry Cadagan was a tireless advocate for Lake Merced, as San Franciscan and friend Dick Morten noted, “I became acquainted with Jerry for over 15 years, through his advocacy for the Lake. Lake Merced was important to Jerry as a parent because his daughter, Kim, rowed for St Ignatius.” But even more important, as Morten pointed out, “Jerry founded ‘Friends of Lake Merced’ as well as a ‘Lake Merced Task Force.’”
The Westside Observer lost a leading advocate and voice for the community when Jerry Cadagan died suddenly on May 17. A memorial service was held in his honor at the Boathouse of Lake Merced this past June 24.
Jerry’s initial profession was as a corporate attorney for Crown-Zellerbach, a major supplier of paper. But when Jerry discovered river rafting in the 1970’s his life took on a new direction.”
Morten noted that it was “Jerry who fought for Lake Merced, when others could not.”
Cadagan was very much aware of the decline of the Lake and its natural habitat. His concern for it went beyond just a small circle of family and friends. His love for Lake Merced was part of his passion for all the waterways and great outdoors. As Morten explained, “the depth of his water resources knowledge, legal analysis, political acumen gained in various water wars, was immense. And so was his media savvy and most of all, his tenacious advocacy for nearly 20 years. He did not give up in his efforts to revive the City’s environmental jewel, Lake Merced.”
Ironically as Morten pointed out, “Jerry’s initial profession was as a corporate attorney for Crown-Zellerbach, a major supplier of paper. But when Jerry discovered river rafting in the 1970’s his life took on a new direction.”
He and his wife Kristin Ann (Sullivan) Cadagan shared a love for the outdoors and concern for the environment, so much so that they moved from the SF Bay Area to Senora, to be closer to another one of Cadagan’s concerns, the Tuolumne River.
Staff at Tuolumne River Trust, like Peter Derkmeier, hold Cadagan in high esteem because of the work he did not just for Tuolumne or Lake Merced, but for all of the waterways. Organizations like “Friends of the River” remember Cadagan for his commitment to preserve, protect and defend the natural habitat of the rivers, not just in the Bay Area but throughout the State of California and the nation.
John Amodio, who worked with the Sierra Club back in the 1980s and ‘90s, admitted he was a bit wary of a former corporate lawyer who had worked for a paper company. Yet like Morton, he too recognized that Cadagan’s legal training and sharpness served the cause of environmental issues very well. “He brought the rare combination of a keen strategic mind that could dissect both policy and political ramifications, and then devise strategies that were not only effective, but fun to pursue,” said Amodio.
While Cadagan’s interest and concern for environmental issues broadened, the Westside Observer witnessed Cadagan’s deep affection for Lake Merced. Even though he had to commute from Senora, Cadagan was in attendance at just about every meeting and proceeding concerning the lake. His voice was at times the only one that could withstand the on-going bureaucracy that entangled Lake Merced and its future.
“Jerry was often the only one able and willing to fight ‘the two headed monsters,' the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and SF Recreation and Parks,” said Morten. The SFPUC, often referred to as SF Water Power Sewer, Assistant General Manager of the Water Enterprise, Steven Ritchie and Cadagan would clash, as some of the various meetings and community gatherings could get heated and go on for hours.
“But Jerry was never antagonistic,” said Morten. Jerry always maintained his ground very respectful of the opposition or adversaries he faced.”
Along with Morten, many referred to Cadagan as “a warrior.” Cadagan was always willing to go up against the larger powers that can often sweep away any concerns a local community might have about something near to them, like Lake Merced.
Despite his wit, humor, tenacity, fortitude and charm, Cadagan was only human. His son Brent told the Westside Observer that the death of his wife Kristin was a tremendous loss to the Cadagan family. She had been driving to visit with friends during the Thanksgiving season this past November of 2014 and died from a car accident.
Morten said, “Kristin’s death was too much for Jerry.”
The family of Jerry and Kristin Cadagan ask that donations be made to a favorite environmental charity in their memory.
Jonathan Farrell is a local journalist.
Lake Merced area resident Frank Calegari turned 94 this past April 18. Pacific Rod and Gun Club member Fred Tautenhahn thought the Westside Observer would appreciate a mention about Calegari’s life. “How often do you meet someone at his age that is so enthusiastic about technology and about life,” said Tautenhahn.
Calegari has a Samsung 4-G Smartphone and “it does everything,” he said. Calegari prides himself on the fact that he knows every one of his 100 or so contacts. “I know them all personally,” he told the Westside Observer. “It takes me a couple of hours each day to go through my emails.” But Calegari enjoys keeping in contact. Even though he takes life “day by day” in his ninth decade of life, he affirms that there is something new to learn every day.
He is fascinated by the technology that is available today. “People really don’t realize what a marvel it is. I like to ‘Google’—you just type in a subject or a question and up pops an answer—it’s amazing! Everything is in my pocket with a Smartphone.” While he likes using the technology, he is not much of fan of the social networking sites like Facebook. “That is really best for business—I have nothing against it,” he said. “I much rather people contact me directly.”
He is fascinated by the technology that is available today. “People really don’t realize what a marvel it is. I like to ‘Google’—you just type in a subject or a question and up pops an answer—it’s amazing! Everything is in my pocket with a Smartphone.”
Calegari lives within walking distance of the Olympic Club in the same house he and his wife Alice bought in 1954. “This house I purchased with the G.I. Bill,” said Calegari. “Alice passed on a few years ago—lots of happy memories as we were married for 68 years. This is why it is important to keep in contact with friends.” In addition to lunching and playing golf at the Olympic Club, Calegari likes to eat at Lakeside Cafe and stroll a bit at Lakeside Village on Ocean Ave between 19th Ave and Junipero Serra Blvd. “My wife liked the cakes at Ambrosia Bakery,” he said.
“I see Frank at the club every week,” said Attilio Mossi. He and his wife, McGuire Real Estate realtor Leanna Mossi, have lived in the Lake Merced/Lakeshore Acres area for decades. “When I see Frank I call him ‘Paladini’ and he calls me ‘Til’ (short for Attilio),” he said. “Paladini comes from the Latin, way back from ancient Roman days and it can be translated as ‘great one, or honored one’.”
Like the Mossi’s, Calegari is a native San Franciscan and together they are among the remaining few that recollect “the old neighborhood - North Beach and the Marina.” Not to say they don’t appreciate Lake Merced and West Portal, for they do very much. Yet those memories of days in North Beach and the Marina growing up and first married are cherished.
“I was born in North Beach,” said Calegari. “My grandfather and family survived the Earthquake and Fire of 1906.” He is proud to have been born on the April 18 anniversary. He credits some his longevity to that pioneer and survivor spirit of his grandparents and ancestors. “Many of the Italians who immigrated to San Francisco were from Genoa, like my grandfather,” said Calegari. Italians from Genoa at that time, according to Calegari, were tradesmen, shoemakers, and bakers, and many were farmers.
“Yes, that’s true many of the Italians were from Genoa or from Tuscany,” said Leanna Mossi. And, both she and Til said, Sicily was another place from which many immigrated. Calegari is proud of the fact that, even though his grandfather lost everything in ’06, “he restored his fortune by baking bread with one of the few working kitchens in the City.” It’s that persevering determination that Calegari admired about his grandparents.
While San Francisco attracted people from literally everywhere on the globe, neighborhoods like North Beach and the Marina were like little hometowns, and Calegari and the Mossi’s are thankful to have had the blessing to grow up there.
“It was a different time then,” said Calegari. “People today don’t know that just after World War II, prosperity did not happen right away, it took some time. I remember Union Street then as being an economically depressed area—there were lots of vacant shops, not much business,” said Calegari. After serving in WWII as a combat medic with the U.S. Army, Calegari worked at the Horseshoe Restaurant on Chestnut Street, working his way to manager. “But I quit because of the long hours and it was not fair to Alice,” he said.
Shortly after that, Calegari found work in his uncle’s meat market on Green Street near Fillmore. His uncle trained him as a butcher and, eager to open a shop of his own, he found a spot on Union Street near Steiner at the Modern Meat Mart. “The man who owned the little grocery store needed a butcher, because the butcher he had wanted to retire,” said Calegari. With only $600.00, Calegari set up his own butcher shop and eventually bought out the entire grocery store, owning it and operating it himself.
“Supermarkets had not been established like we know them today,” said Lynn King, a native San Franciscan who recalls those days. “Each neighborhood had their own market. They were the ‘mom and pop’ type places,” she said. Leanna Mossi explained, “everyone had their favorite butcher shop where people got all their meat and poultry.” Calegari sold the shop and the grocery store when he retired in 1978. “That is what afforded me to join the Olympic Club,” he said.
“I don’t think I would be here today if it were not for my friends at the Olympic Club,” said Calegari. He noted that he has lived an ordinary life that has been very blessed. When asked if he had any advice or words of wisdom to share, he said, “keep busy, make friends and play golf. As you get older, golf is one of the few sports you can play when you’re 94 years old.”
Jonathan Farrell is a San Francisco free lance reporter. firstname.lastname@example.org