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By Steve Steinberg
To Denny Giovannoli, owner of Tuggey's, the venerable hardware store on 24th Street, Ron Peetz was always more of a friend than an employee. After all, Giovannoli had known Peetz since Giovannoli was 10 years old.
So it was doubly sad for Giovannoli when Peetz suddenly died last month at the age of 56. He was "a real gentleman," said Giovannoli.
Peetz had worked at Tuggey's for more than 27 years. "He loved the store, and customers loved him," Giovannoli said. "The store was his life."
Giovannoli's father and Peetz' father had also been close friends. The younger Giovannoli remembers going out on the Peetz family boat when he was a kid.
Although his friend's death came as a shock to Giovannoli, Peetz had been in failing health for quite some time. He had had two hip replacements in recent years and seemed to be aging rapidly. "His aging had progressed more in the last year than in [the five years before that]," Giovannoli said.
Fellow Tuggey's worker Geary Holst said that Peetz never let his physical ailments get in the way of his responsibilities to the store and to customers. "He was a quiet, good guy all around, who never said anything bad about anybody," Holst said.
Andy Gomez, a former store employee, who had worked with Peetz for over 20 years, remembered him as "a great friend," who "would do anything for you." Gomez, who now works at a hardware store in Brisbane, added, "I'm going to miss him."
Dan Richman, a 21st Street contractor and regular customer at Tuggey's, described Peetz as "an amazingly innocent and loving soul." Peetz knew the store's inventory like the back of his hand, Richman said, and could answer almost any hardware question you threw at him. "He was certainly an asset to the store, and many builders depended on his knowledge," Richman said.
According to Giovannoli, Peetz had failed to show up for work on the morning of April 9, something extremely unusual for the longtime employee.
Giovannoli called Peetz' home in Tiburon and spoke to his brother-in-law Mike, who had been staying with Peetz at his late mother's house, helping to sort through her possessions following her death last year.
The tearful brother-in-law told Giovannoli that Peetz had complained of feeling ill that morning and had said he needed to go to the hospital immediately. A short time later, the brother-in-law found Peetz lying down in another room. According to Mike, "Ron looked at him, smiled, closed his eyes, and died," Giovannoli said. The cause of death has not been determined.
Peetz grew up in Marin County, where his father, a veterinarian, owned an animal hospital. According to Giovannoli, Peetz graduated college, married, and had one daughter. His wife died many years ago, Giovannoli said. Their daughter, Terry, lives in Arizona.
Giovannoli said his customers had been "blown away" and deeply saddened by Peetz' death. Several, he said, attended Peetz' funeral at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma on April 16.
Besides his daughter, Peetz is survived by a brother, who lives in Illinois.