August Hermoso

As the gardener who tended the governor's residence in Sacramento, August Neil "Gus" Hermoso, enjoyed an unusual perk - playing catch with then governor Ronald Reagan.

When Reagan needed a break, he'd step outside and find Hermoso.

"They'd play catch football," Hermoso's wife Kris said Wednesday of Hermoso's time with "The Gipper," Reagan's enduring nickname from his Hollywood role in "Knute Rockne, All American."

Reagan "would come out and want to clear his head and he'd throw the football," her husband of 32 years told her.

Hermoso was a staunch Democrat and didn't agree with the conservative politics of Reagan, who would go on to become president. But on a personal level, things were different.

"He said Ronald Reagan was a really nice guy to get along with. It made working there at the governor's mansion more interesting and pleasurable," she said of Hermoso's job in the late 1960s.

Hermoso, 76, who died Monday at his Healdsburg home as a result of cancer, would use his skills from a career in landscaping to beautify and improve a half-dozen parks in Healdsburg and also maintain the sports fields.

He volunteered at parks, was a Park and Recreation commissioner and past member of Healdsburg's Airport Commission.

Two weeks ago he was one of three people honored with the city's 2013 Marie Sparks Memorial Volunteer Award.

Hermoso was singled out for many activities, including his cooking at the annual Senior Appreciation Dinner and involvement with Healdsburg's 150th anniversary celebration.

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