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Friday, April 16, 2010

Nancy Mary Sage, 1906 Quake Survivor, Dies at 105

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Nancy Mary Sage was six months old when The Big One hit in 1906 and destroyed her family
  • Nancy Mary Sage was six months old when The Big One hit in 1906 and destroyed her family
Whenever a survivor of the Great Quake of '06 dies, more of them always seem to turn up after the obituary runs in the San Francisco Chronicle. Nancy Mary Sage died yesterday in Littleton, Colo. at age 105; her obit will almost certainly run today in the Chron. But, at this point, there just may not be anymore survivors to be found.

That's the estimation of Lee Houskeeper, a press agent who has long put together the annual predawn April 18 commemoration of  the quake at Lotta's Fountain. He figures that eight or, at most, 10 survivors are left -- and no amount of publicity will turn up anymore.

While, sadly, Sage will not make this year's event -- and 107-year-old Rose Cliver is doubtful -- Houskeeper is delighted to confirm that 104-year-old Bill Del Monte has said he's happy to come.

"He's a kick," said Houskeeper of the centenarian. Among other colorful elements of Del Monte's life, he was born in the backroom of the Fior d'Italia restaurant, He lost his first million in the '29 crash, and he's still day trading on his computer to this day.

Sage and her sister, Margaret saw their lives crumble down along with San Francisco on April 18, 1906. Their family lost everything it had; her ill mother died shortly thereafter and her broke father gave up his children to other family members. Nancy, just six months old at the time of the quake, was raised by her grandparents in rural Idaho, where she cooked and cleaned for miners and loggers as a child.

Her husband, Howard, was killed in a 1952 logging accident, and Sage never remarried. After retiring 30 years ago from her position as chief librarian of the Meridian, Idaho public library, she moved to Colorado to live with her son, Darrell, in '84. Darrell Sage wrote that their Sunday cribbage games continued until close to his mother's dying day -- "and I don't have to cheat to let her win her share of games. During those card games, the resident cockatiel in the sun room has learned a few choice words from her to add to his limited vocabulary."


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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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