Edward "Ed" Pierini Sr., a Sacramento native who connected with his hometown at street level as a cabdriver for more than 40 years, died May 24. He was 86.
He died of angiosarcoma, a rare form of blood vessel cancer, his family said.
Mr. Pierini watched Sacramento evolve from a close-knit small town to a sprawling urban hub through the windshield of a taxicab. After serving aboard a Navy gunboat near Japanese-held islands in World War II, he returned home to a casual way of life meeting and driving residents and visitors around town.
His passengers came from all walks of life, including politicians, celebrities, tourists and barflies. He took Gov. Pat Brown and daughter Kathleen to Mass at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. He earned a $100 tip and a peek inside James Brown's private plane for driving the singer to Sacramento Executive Airport. He drove boardinghouse operator and serial killer Dorothea Puente to bars in Stockton frequented by Mexican workers.
He "hauled a lot of drunks" back "when nightclubs were called 'bars,' " said his son, Ed Jr., who interviewed his father for a family history. He also shuttled residents from upper-crust neighborhoods to the lively, all-night enclave of bars, brothels and flophouses on the west side of downtown, before redevelopment in the 1960s cleaned up Sacramento's Skid Row area.
"When the rest of Sacramento went to sleep at night, you could always go to Skid Row for some action," Mr. Pierini told his son.
A fourth-generation Sacramento native, Edward Joseph Pierini was born Aug. 14, 1926. He began working at 12 as a Sacramento Union paperboy and dropped out of Sacramento High School to join the Navy at 17. He married Phyllis Ceron and had three children.
A lifelong fitness buff, he was active in the early weightlifting and bodybuilding community. He pumped iron and became friends with local Olympic champion Tommy Kono and Bill Pearl, a former Mr. America and Mr. Universe. Before commercial gyms opened, he was a regular for many years at the original YMCA at Fifth and J streets.
He retired from cabdriving in 1988 and devoted himself for 24 years to caring for his daughter Joanne, who is disabled.
Although his health began declining in February, Mr. Pierini had sharp memories of people and places familiar to many Sacramento old-timers. He recalled eating burgers at the original Jim-Denny's on 16th Street and paying 25 cents for two hot dogs at the Star Lunch on K Street.
He described the excitement of seeing boxing champ Max Baer cooling off at the Riverside Baths near William Land Park. He remembered exact addresses of bars and restaurants in Skid Row.
"He had a map of Sacramento imprinted in his mind from driving a cab," his son said. "If you named a place, he could tell you the address, what side of the street it was on and what was next door. He remembered things with amazing detail."
Mr. Pierini's marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his children, Edward Jr., Joanne and Deborah Slaughter, all of Sacramento; six grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. A rosary will be recited at 9 a.m. Saturday, followed by a Mass at 9:30 a.m., at St. Rose Catholic Church, 5961 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Our Lady of Victory Homes or to Sacramento Life Center.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.