Last survivor of 1906 San Francisco quake dies at 109

William A "Bill" Del Monte's niece says he had been doing great for a person of his age.

Updated - September 23, 2016 12:00 am IST

Published - January 12, 2016 11:01 am IST - SAN FRANCISCO:

William A “Bill” Del Monte was 3 months old when the disaster rocked the city.

William A “Bill” Del Monte was 3 months old when the disaster rocked the city.

The last survivor of the devastating San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 has died, a relative has confirmed.

William A “Bill” Del Monte died at a retirement home in nearby Marin County on Monday. He was 11 days shy of his 110th birthday. His niece Janette Barroca of San Francisco confirmed his death of natural causes.

He’d been doing “great for 109 years old,” Ms. Barroca said on Monday.

He was a tiny tot then

Mr. Del Monte was just three months old when the quake struck, forcing his family into the streets to escape in an open horse-drawn carriage with fire burning on both sides, Ms. Barroca said.

The family crossed the bay to Alameda County but eventually came back to the city after the home was rebuilt, she said.

They owned a famed restaurant

His father had opened the famous Fior d’Italia restaurant on Broadway in 1886 and it was destroyed in the quake but reopened in a tent not long after. By 1915, the Italian restaurant was prospering again, according to a 2011 San Francisco Chronicle story.

Mr. Del Monte attended San Francisco schools and after graduation went to work briefly for his father at his North Beach restaurant. But even in his teens he was interested in playing the stock market. And he was good at it.

By 23, he was worth $1 million

By 1929 at age 23, he was worth a million dollars, according to the San Francisco Chronicle story. He lost the money but around the same time he gained a wife, Vera Minetti.

They eloped to Reno in 1925 and were married for more than 55 years before she died in 1991. They never had children.

Dabbled in theatre too

While his true passion was playing the stock markets, he also ran a San Francisco Bay Area theatre for years. Mr. Del Monte’s death leaves a void in the city’s history.

Ruth Newman was the oldest remaining survivor of the earthquake before her death last summer. She was 113.

Newman was 4 years old when the quake struck in the early morning of April 18, 1906. She died July 29 at her home in Pebble Beach.

Used to attend the quake-related events

Mr. Del Monte attended the annual earthquake commemorations events in San Francisco, which include gatherings at Lotta’s Fountain in downtown before dawn. In 2010, he was the only survivor who made it to Lotta’s Fountain, riding in the back of the city’s big black, 1930 Lincoln convertible.

More than 1,000 people were killed in the earthquake and fires. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, measurements of the quake have ranged from magnitude 7.7 to 8.3.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.