There was this Larkspur resident, Rob Boardman, 47, who always seemed to be there if someone needed him — even though he had fragile, elderly parents to watch over and a auto-body business to run.
“He was a wonderful kid, always wanted to help everybody,” said Larkspur Mayor Gerry Been, who has known Boardman since he really was a kid.
Boardman, a 1984 Douglas County High School graduate, had a lot of nicknames: “Burn” was one, maybe because he was a volunteer Larkspur firefighter for 24 years.
He took care of a lot of people in this town of maybe 200 and he didn't have to travel far to do it. His family's auto-body business is in the heart of town. He could reach most of the people and places within a block or two.
There was the elderly couple who didn't have family around and counted on him. And then even after they died, he still kept up the yard on their vacant house.
Post office workers knew he'd always be there if someone had a dead battery.
The clerk at the Larkspur Country Store said she knew he'd always be there if she needed help carrying something or repairing something.
Marvin Cardenas, a local artist, said he thinks the first time he met Rob was because Rob offered to help him clean up the trashy yard of the house Cardenas had just rented.
Even a local gray squirrel had become attached to him, and became a pet, after boldly walking into Boardman's garage one day while Boardman was eating peanuts.
He always had a corny joke to tell and was always smiling, several people said.
“He was a shining star for a lot of people,” Cardenas said.
Now suddenly he's gone. He didn't smoke, didn't drink — even when he went with his Dad regularly into the Spur, a town pub and café, it was to buy a soda pop and candy out of the machine, said Pam Ramsour, 53, waitress and bartender.
But his good heart wore out, anyway.
He reportedly went into a local hospital because of breathing problems, had complications, and in the middle of the night on Sept. 29 died of a heart attack.
Now, a town says it's heartbroken.
“He never hurt anyone,” said Jana Medina, a clerk at the Larkspur Country Store. “Why did it have to be him?”
“It was quite a shocker to the whole community,” said Larkspur Town Manager Matt Krimmer.
Been encouraged anyone who wanted to, to put their flags at half-staff for Boardman that week.
So Larkspur's flag in the town park was halfway down to honor kindness, as were private flags on either end of town.
“I was on many (fire) scenes with him,” said Charles Walden, division chief for the Larkspur Fire Protection District. “I've never heard him raise his voice … never complained.”
He remembers seeing Rob, who never married, always helping his parents. His dad used an oxygen tank and he'd help him get around.
It was pretty much expected everyone would be there for Rob — on Oct. 7 at the 10 a.m. funeral service and burial and then at a reception at the fire department. “It's going to be really big,” Been said prior to the funeral.
The antique fire truck that Boardman was in the process of restoring for parades and such might not be there. But the rest of a major fire department procession planned to be there.
Boardman's gone, and he was the “right arm, left arm, both legs,” for his elderly parents, Cardenas said.
But Larkspur knows where his parents live. And the elderly couple has been getting a lot of visits.
“I've been over there four or five times today,” said one resident.