Gianni Carlo Pasini came to the U.S. as a young man from Italy and began working as a handyman in San Francisco. But through hard work, frugality and business acumen he was able to build a successful enterprise in remodeling and real estate.

Pasini died Wednesday at his 300-acre ranch and home in Santa Rosa. He was 79.

Family who gathered Sunday remembered him as an extremely hard worker. He may have only have had a sixth-grade education but he taught them many lessons.

"It was all street skills and learning as you go," said his grandson Carlo Torrano of San Francisco.

Pasini had grandsons and other relatives help him in the family business, where he often reminded them that "time is money."

"But you always knew that he appreciated your hard work," Torrano said.

Pasini was born Feb. 24, 1933, in Prosto di Piuro in northern Italy. His own father earlier had spent 20 years in the U.S. and had told his son that America was a land of opportunity.

Pasini arrived in the U.S. in 1956. A year later, he married Virginia Paoli.

In San Francisco, he first worked as a handyman at Saints Peter and Paul Church. He soon went on to do home painting and remodeling. When Interstate 280 was built, he bought and moved homes in the path of the roadway. He also bought, renovated and flipped homes there.

"He had the eyes of an architect, the brain of an engineer and the hands of a contractor," said his grandson Ellio Torrano of Santa Rosa.

Family mattered most to him, and he had relatives gather regularly for dinners and times together. He was known as "Nonno" to his grandchildren.

Family members said he never forgot his humble beginnings and he insisted on straight talk.

He traveled a few times each year to his hometown in Italy to see family there and had just visited them a month earlier. He enjoyed working on his ranch, which included a small vineyard, olive trees, vegetable garden and cattle.

Along with his wife, survivors include his son, John Pasini of San Francisco; his daughter, Susan Torrano of Santa Rosa; his sisters Rosetta Zimmermann of San Francisco and Marisa Martocchi of Italy; and five grandchildren.

A rosary service will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Green Street Mortuary, 649 Green St., San Francisco. A Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Cecilia's Church, 2555 17th St., San Francisco.

—Robert Digitale