Frank Imwinkelried had a voracious appetite for knowledge and a passion for making others happy.

That's how his neighbors at Copeland Creek Apartments in Rohnert Park remember him.

Imwinkelried lived in the apartment complex for most of the last decade of his life. He died March 15, at the age of 98. A niece did not give his specific cause of death.

"He had power, beauty and sparkle," said Kira Ivory, who lived next to Imwinkelried at Copeland Creek Apartments. His blue eyes never quit twinkling, she said. "He was loved by all the people here, everybody who had ever spoken to him."

Many people in Rohnert Park came to know Imwinkelried as the self-appointed "guardian of the creek," said his nephew, Ed Imwinkelried, of Davis.

Frank Imwinkelried adopted the creek behind his apartment complex when he moved from his childhood home in San Francisco to Rohnert Park to be near his nieces. He regularly picked up trash and hauled shopping carts from the muck, walking them back to shopping centers as far as three-quarters of a mile away. And he did this well into his 90s, Ed Imwinkelried said: "He was like a one-man Environmental Protection Agency when it came to that creek."

Frank Imwinkelried looked after the creek because he wanted to make people happy, his nephew said.

"He was one of the kindest human beings I've ever met. When we took hour-long walks behind the creek, virtually everyone knew him."

Imwinkelried grew up in San Francisco near the Castro District, where his father delivered milk to China Town. The son of Swiss immigrants, he was proud of his heritage and his last name, which meant "where the mountains come together," said his niece, Elaine Stevick, of Petaluma.

During World War II, Imwinkelried served as a combat engineer in an amphibious brigade, participating in eight dangerous landings, Stevick said.

When he returned, he spent years training to become a journeyman printer. He opened his own printing press in the basement of the home where he grew up.

"He was devoted to taking care of family members in times of need," Stevick said, recalling how he tutored her in high school math after her father died.

He never went to college but had a hunger for knowledge and truth, attending numerous adult education classes, Stevick said.

He was an reader of books on science, religion and philosophy, and relished deep, challenging conversations on the subjects.

Imwinkelried was raised Catholic. But as an adult he called himself a Humanist, unsure about what the after-life held but deeply committed to helping his fellow man in the present, Ed Imwinkelried said.

"He always wanted to leave a person better for having met him."

Imwinkelried is survived by his nephew Ed Imwinkelried and his nieces, Elaine Stevick and Betty Waters.

The funeral will be private, at his request

--Jamie Hansen