Russell Gilardi, the affable owner of a marina on the Petaluma River, died on his birthday, Nov. 13, of a heart attack. He was 62.
Gilardi suffered an apparent heart attack while driving his 2007 Chevrolet Silverado on Petaluma Boulevard North near Metz Lane, causing the pickup to crash into a sign and guardrail.
"He touched a lot of people's lives," said his son, John Gilardi.
Gilardi was born and raised in Petaluma, graduating from Petaluma High School in 1969 before joining the Navy. After the military, Gilardi helped run the family's two businesses.
He was a partner in the former Gilardi's Furniture on Petaluma Boulevard, which his parents opened in the 1960s. It closed in the early 1990s.
He also managed and lived at Gilardi's Lakeville Marina, beside Papa's Taverna Greek restaurant on Lakeville Highway. The business, founded by his grandfather as a fishing spot on the Petaluma River, has been in his family for three generations.
As a younger man, Gilardi loved building powerboats and racing them on the river. Later, as harbor master of the small marina, Gilardi enjoyed helping other boaters and socializing with them, John Gilardi said.
"There's kind of a little community out there," he said.
Gilardi's sister, Carole Vironda, called her brother an easy-going, soft-hearted guy who got along with everyone.
"He was always there for support for anybody that needed it," Vironda said.
Gilardi also volunteered with the Lakeville Volunteer Fire Department and enjoyed researching the history of the area.
When he wasn't working, Gilardi enjoyed water skiing and working on cars. With the help of his son, Gilardi restored a 1966 Chevelle, complete with a 454 horsepower engine and shiny maroon paint job, to show-quality perfection.
A memorial will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Parent-Sorensen Mortuary & Crematory, 850 Keokuk St., Petaluma. Contributions may be made to Hospice of Petaluma, 416 Payran St., Petaluma 94952.