By Julia Hannafin
A makeshift memorial was erected on the sidewalk near the Berkeley Bowl on Oregon Street last week to mark the passing of Peter, also known as “Pee Wee,” a 78-year-old man who locals remember as being a fixture in that spot — a “sweet” man who invariably could be found sitting on a milk-crate with his nose in a mystery novel.
Berkeleyside reader Peter Moore, who shared the photo above, said Peter was always reading books, although ready to engage in conversation. “I’ll miss him,” he wrote.
Another reader, Paul Rauber, describes Pete as African-American with long dreads, and a cheerful and gentle demeanor. He routinely sold the Street Sheet outside Berkeley Bowl.
Peter was friends with many members of the surrounding community, according to Moore. A woman from San Francisco even traveled regularly across the bay to see him. People gave him their old books and shoes — sometimes even a new jacket, said Moore. “Peter was always incredibly grateful for the gifts and taken aback by the kindness of those who helped him.”
“When I was laid off last year [and offered him money] he told me, ‘You don’t have to give me this,’ said Moore. “But I told him I could afford it and that I knew he needed it. I know he brought joy to those who knew him.”
Thomas Finn, an employee at Berkeley Bowl for over nine years, said Peter never had a cross word for anyone. “He was just a soft-spoken gentleman,” he said. Finn mentioned that, like himself, Peter was from Chicago — a shared background they often discussed.
“Peter was a waiter at some of the best restaurants in the country,” said Finn, adding that Peter had traveled all around the country through his work.
Another Berkeley Bowl employee noted that Peter had been around Berkeley Bowl longer than she had worked there — more than 15 years.
According to Finn, Peter had a great relationship with most of the staff, and will be missed. “He was just an all-round nice guy,” he said.
One of the notes written on the memorial reads: “Peter — you made this block feel like home.”
Readers who have more information about Peter are encouraged to share it in the comments section below.
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