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Church Street Resident Dies in Alaska Airlines Crash
By Steve Steinberg
Tragedy came home this January with the death of Noe Valley resident Juan Marquez, one of the passengers killed in the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 off the coast of Southern California.
Described by friends as a "wonderful person, about whom no one could ever say anything bad," Marquez was returning to his Noe Valley home at 1407 Church Street from his vacation retreat in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when the Jan. 31 fatal plunge occurred. All 88 passengers and crew aboard Flight 261 were killed. Investigators have tentatively blamed the disaster on the aircraft's horizontal stabilizer, a tail mechanism that helps keep the plane level.
Marquez, who was 53 when he died, had been a frequent visitor to Puerto Vallarta. He and his partner, Dale Rettinger, owned two condos in the Mexican resort town and were planning to live there about half the time.
"He liked the city very much," said Rettinger. "Its quaintness appealed to him." Ironically, the two men were originally scheduled to fly home together on Feb. 1. "Juan decided to return a day early," Rettinger said. "He wanted a day to rest up before going back to work."
The two men had just moved into their second condo (in Mexico) and were still in the process of furnishing it. They had yet to get a phone. Consequently, no one could immediately inform Rettinger of the crash. He finally learned the plane was down when a Puerto Vallarta taxi driver who was also a friend came to the condo with the news.
Rettinger said he harbored no ill will against Alaska Airlines for the crash. "Alaska Airlines has done everything for me they could possibly do," he said, noting that the airlines had assigned him his own personal representative and had helped keep the major media from bothering him during this difficult time. "[The airlines] lost a lot of good people, too," he added.
Marquez was born in Mexico but came to this country as a small child, and grew up in Redlands, Calif. His brothers and sisters still reside in Redlands. Marquez worked alongside Rettinger in Dale Rettinger and Associates, selling textbooks and other educational supplies to schools.
Marquez had also had several previous occupations. A graduate of the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, he worked as a licensed vocational nurse at Oakland's Alta Bates Hospital, and had also served as a medic in Vietnam. For a time he was a hair stylist, cutting hair in downtown San Francisco salons as well as out of his home. He and Rettinger had lived together in their Noe Valley house since 1987.
Rettinger said he had been planning to retire soon, although Marquez had intended to keep working. "My retirement plans will have to be delayed now," Rettinger said.
Marquez was well-known in Noe Valley, and his death was considered a great loss by many in the neighborhood. "I found him to be a very considerate and kind person, always concerned about other people's feelings. I will miss him," said Alvarado School teacher Paula Conrey, who originally met Marquez as a hair stylist but continued to know him through his textbook publishers' exhibits at teacher seminars.
"His death was so terrible; he was such a wonderful person," said friend Pat Miller. "He was kind, giving, and sensitive.... Everybody loved him and he had lots of friends."
Arnold Gubins, a neighbor of Marquez, said he first got to know him through UPS deliveries. "Because Dale and Juan used to get so many deliveries in connection with their business, they would often take in packages for neighbors who weren't at home," Gubins said. "He was a sweet person, warm and friendly, who basically seemed to be very happy. He had a warm smile and helped make the neighborhood a real community."
Another neighbor, Connie Maurer, also praised Marquez's ability to organize things and bring people together. "He'd always stop and talk to you and was someone genuinely likable."
Maurer added that she had had a "bad feeling" about the crash even before she knew for certain that Marquez was on Flight 261. "Their car had been gone for a while, so I knew they weren't home," Maurer said.
A celebration of Marquez's life was held at his Church Street home on Feb. 19.