SAN FRANCISCO -- Herbert Hamrol, who survived the Great Earthquake of 1906 and recalled for later generations how his mother carried him to safety that day, has died. He was 106.
Hamrol, one of the last survivors of the catastrophic quake and fire that leveled San Francisco, died Wednesday at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, a hospital spokeswoman said. His death came less than a month after he celebrated his 106th birthday with a big bash at a steakhouse.
The party was just Hamrol's style, said friends and co-workers. He smoked cigars into his 90s, and told whoever wanted to know that his secret to a long life was "wild women and good liquor," said Janine Barrett, a manager at Andronico's Market in San Francisco.
Until last month, Hamrol had worked at Andronico's stocking shelves and greeting customers--a job he took after retiring as a grocer in 1967.
"He still came in twice a week--took the BART and the bus to work from Daly City, and walked," Barrett said. "He was very independent."
Hamrol was a regular at commemorations of the Great Quake, telling how he escaped the crumbling apartment building in his mother's arms.
"She carried me in her left arm and used her right hand to grab the stair rail," Hamrol told The Associated Press on the earthquake's 99th anniversary. "That's all I remember."
Last April 18, Hamrol was the lone survivor to attend the annual commemoration. He arrived in style, riding in an immaculate vintage car and saying he would attend this year's anniversary, "God willing."
"You're not going to get an earthquake every day. So we celebrate the one that we had," Hamrol said. "It was a beautiful earthquake, if you want to look at it in the glorious way."
Herbert Hamrol, 103, smiles as he waits with seven other 1906 earthquake and fire survivors on Opening Day of the San Francisco Giants-Atlanta Braves baseball game, in San Francisco, Thursday, April 6, 2006.