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Friday, March 5, 2010

Actual '06 Survivor to Be Present at 104th Commemoration of Big Quake

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 8:30 AM

Bill DelMonte and Rose Cliver at last year's earthquake commemoration. DelMonte says he's game to be here in 2010 as well. - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • Bill DelMonte and Rose Cliver at last year's earthquake commemoration. DelMonte says he's game to be here in 2010 as well.
This, says Lee Houskeeper, is his least favorite thing to do all year long. At around this time, for the last 20-plus months of March, he's had to place phone calls to survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to see if -- let's put this gently -- they're able to make the April 18 commemoration.

This used to entail making 100 phone calls. Now it's a two-call job. So far, 104-year-old Bill DelMonte has said he's game. By the end of the day, it'll be apparent whether Rose Cliver, 107, is ... available.

While you may have read differently in the papers, Houskeeper said there are about 10 '06 quake survivors still among us. "Each time a paper prints the last one has died, I get all these calls." The vast majority of those survivors, however, are not ambulatory, live in warmer climes, or just aren't up for a 5:11 a.m. celebration at Lotta's Fountain on Market and the apex of Kearney and Geary. Now it's just Bill and -- fingers crossed -- Rose.  

Much of Houskeeper's survivors' telephone directory was gleaned from Golden Gate Transit. The ferry service sponsored a free ride for survivors and their families up to the 99th commemoration of the quake, and "kept records for years." He's still in contact with those families. And while many predicted the annual 5:11 a.m. commemorations would die off after the centennial in 2006, more than 500 tired souls (including your humble narrator) showed up at last year's pre-dawn affair.

Houskeeper is hoping for three times that number this year. First off, the event happily falls on a Sunday. Second, the massive quakes in Haiti and Chile have sparked interest amng the emergency management community as well as your usual cadre of history buffs and folks who just happen to be scuffling around Market Street at 5 a.m. 

"We want this to survive beyond the survivors," Houskeeper says.

UPDATE: 9:20 a.m. Houskeeper confirms Cliver, 107, is still answering her phone, and hopes to attend the commemoration.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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