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Anyone who has spent time on downtown Santa Rosa's main east-west street through much of the past 35 years or so has probably spotted, spoken to or avoided eye contact with Brad Scott.

Perhaps more likely, they've heard the seismic laugh that rolled from Scott, a 1972 Piner High School grad known for his steady, short-pants presence on Fourth Street.

"I think he got thrown out of here because he laughed so loud," patron Duane Rhodes said Thursday at Peet's Coffee & Tea at Fourth and D streets.

Rhodes was among many downtown regulars, workers and shop owners startled by news that Scott was found dead Wednesday in his Fifth Street apartment.

The Sonoma County Coroner's Office is investigating, but Scott's landlord said it appears he collapsed from natural causes.

Scott was 60 and by no means famous. But along Fourth Street at the core of his hometown, he was a fixture admired for his upbeat, agreeable nature and intriguing mix of passions.

He was a Jehovah's Witness sidewalk missionary, a former cowboy, a racehorse nutritional consultant and a wiz at polishing out the scratches that vandals etch into window glass. At one time he doled out samples of a quite-good vegetarian chili he hoped he might market.

"He was kind of a Renaissance man," said Bernie Schwartz, the longtime owner of California Luggage.

In recent years, Scott was largely without work and, for the most part, without money. But he didn't complain, and he certainly didn't ask for handouts.

"He was just always positive and happy. There are so many of us downtown who just loved the guy," said attorney Pat Grattan of the Old Courthouse Square law firm of Geary Shea O'Donnell Grattan & Mitchell. "And the remarkable thing is, he didn't have anything."

For years, Scott's parents subsidized his work spreading word of the paradise he believed he would see restored on Earth. Friends said he inherited the family home in Santa Rosa but lost it to the real-estate bust.

In recent days, he was quite animated while sharing that he was going back into helping to improve the performance of racehorses through nutrition. But for hours a day he sat outside Fourth Street businesses — for years, with his late, rescued greyhound, Ian — and shared stories, ideas and jokes, and laughed.

Attorney Grattan echoed a suggestion by Mark Auerbach, the proprietor of Mark Allen Jewelers, that Scott "was kind of like a modern version of Pepper." She was the theatrical and mischievous character who patrolled the streets of downtown for 50 years before she died in 1992.

Scott, a more reserved presence than Pepper, stood for years and silently held the Awake and Watchtower magazines produced by the Jehovah's Witnesses. Never one to impose on passers-by, he did most of his mannerly sidewalk proselytizing decades ago, having begun at age 24 in 1978.

But earlier this year, he dressed up in slacks, a shirt and tie, and he bought a black fedora from Schwartz's luggage shop. And several times he again took to standing in the square at the southeast corner of Mendocino and Fourth with his magazines detailing the good and bad news of the imminent end of the world.

Scott also would lounge for hours at the tables and chairs outside of John and Lila Ryan's Sweet Spot Pub & Grill.

"He was a great guy and a good customer," John Ryan said.

Ryan will hold a wake for his friend at his pub on Fourth Street from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 25.

"He was a permanent fixture. He watched out for us," Ryan said. After hours, Scott "called me if something looked suspicious.

"He was sort of my guardian angel," Ryan said. "And he cleaned my windows."

Among Scott's diverse interests and talents, he became an expert not only at cleaning windows but at polishing away vandals' scratches from storefront glass.

Recently, he spotted a crew from the Glass with Class firm cleaning the windows and buffing scratches at the Mendocino-at-Fifth offices of a creative agency, The Engine is Red. He mentioned to the workers that he does that work, too.

Dave Hurwitz, the owner of Glass with Class, hired him on the spot to help with the Engine is Red job. Hurwitz said he quickly came to admire Scott and the quality of his work.

"It's hard to find somebody with the skill he had," Hurwitz said. "His work was fantastic."

Hurwitz subsequently contacted Scott to ask if he'd like to work on Friday, April 11. Scott said he would, so they agreed to meet downtown early that morning.

But even earlier, Scott texted Hurwitz to say, "I've been been up all night sick, it feels like food poisoning."

Hurwitz was shocked to hear that Scott had died sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday. "He was such a great guy; I didn't really get to know him."

Some of his downtown friends said Scott's health, grooming and mental acuity seemed to decline as of late. Others said he was clearly excited about getting back to helping horse trainers improve their animals' health and lap times.

All agreed that Fourth Street suddenly isn't as friendly and interesting.

Carol Rhodes, the wife of Peet's regular Duane, gestured at the curbside redwood tree in front of the coffeehouse.

Brad Scott "is like that tree there," she said. "He's always been around."

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 521-5211 or chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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