William Burke Webb

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Burke Webb walked into Fiesta Market in Boyes Hot Springs back in the 1960s seeking a job. Owner Stan Mohar liked what he saw and asked the young Oklahoman when he could start.

Right now, was the answer. Go put on an apron, Mohar told him.

Webb, 69, worked for Mohar's locally owned Sonoma County grocery stores for almost 50 years while he raised a family and settled into a good life far from his native state.

"He was part of the Pacific Market family, that's for damn sure," said Brad Mohar, whose father hired Webb and who works as the stores' general manager.

William Burke Webb died unexpectedly June 23 at a local hospital of complications from cancer, said his wife, Gail Webb of Santa Rosa.

Webb was raised in Seminole, Okla., and early on found a love for drag racing. He won several trophies while racing in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including a first place in his division in the Oklahoma state finals, she said.

As a young, newly married man, Webb and his first wife Carol moved to California and lived in Sonoma, where he had an uncle, said Gail Webb.

They raised three children while Webb learned the grocery business.

"My dad took a real liking to him, taught him the business ... bumped him up along the way," said Rick Mohar, who also worked for years with Webb.

The Fiesta and Pacific Markets and Food City, owned by the Mohar and Silveria family members, grew and Webb took on bigger jobs, including managing the Sonoma store and eventually developing a knack as specialty food buyer for all of the stores.

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