Joe Garbarino Sr. — one of the founders of Marin Sanitary Service — died early Monday of natural causes, family members said. He was 89.
Mr. Garbarino — a cousin of Joe Garbarino Jr., 79, who is well known in Marin as the public face of Marin Sanitary — had just climbed into his truck at his San Rafael home to leave for work at 1 a.m. when he collapsed and died, family members said.
"We couldn't get him to quit working," said Dave Garbarino, one of Joe Garbarino Sr.'s three sons. "He was a hard worker all his life. He vacationed very little. But he loved his job."
Patty Garbarino, daughter of Joe Garbarino Jr., said, "We called him 'senior' because he was 10 years older (than Joe Jr.). Italians name their first child after their father, so consequently that is why there are lots of Joes running around."
Mr. Garbarino Sr. was born in San Francisco in 1923. His father and the father of Joe Garbarino Jr. formed the Scavengers Protective Association in the 1920s, hauling garbage in large burlap bags on their backs over the steep hills of San Francisco.
"There was a lot of history between us," said Joe Garbarino Jr. "His father had sent for my father in the 1920s."
But Mr. Garbarino Sr.'s mother missed her previous home in the burgh of Varazze, and the family moved back to Italy several years after Mr. Garbarino Sr.'s birth. Then, when World War II was beginning in 1940, Joe Garbarino Jr.'s father had his brother send Joe Garbarino Sr. back to San Francisco to live with them.
"We slept in the same room," said Joe Garbarino Jr.
Mr. Garbarino Sr. was 15 when he crossed the Atlantic alone; he had a fifth-grade education and rudimentary skills in English, said Dave Garbarino. When he arrived in San Francisco, Mr. Garbarino Sr. went to work with Joe Garbarino Jr.'s father at the Scavengers Protective Association.
During World War II, Mr. Garbarino Sr. served in the U.S. Army, seeing combat in Guadalcanal and the Philippines. He rose to the rank of sergeant.
Joe Garbarino Jr. said his cousin fought with the "much decorated" 25th Infantry Division and suffered shrapnel wounds in the Philippines.
In 1948, Mr. Garbarino Sr. joined with Joe Segale, Ernie Zappettini, Lawrence Marconi, Guido Zanotti, Joe Cattaneo and Rueben Valtierra to form Marin Sanitary Service. In 1955, Mr. Garbarino Sr. asked Joe Garbarino Jr. if he wanted to come work at Marin Sanitary Service. Now, Joe Garbarino Jr., who is senior vice president, is the only surviving partner.
Joe Garbarino Jr. said, "We were eight owners and now we're down to one, unfortunately. We were two owners for many years. We got along very well. He was an extremely hard worker. I will certainly miss him."
When he wasn't working, Mr. Garbarino Sr.'s favorite pastime was playing the accordion and trumpet.
Dave Garbarino said, "He taught us to play music, and we had a family band for 40 years. We played weddings and other events. His entire life was garbage and music."
His son said Mr. Garbarino Sr. was proud of his Italian heritage and belonged to a number of Italian-American clubs, including the Sons of Italy.
Mr. Garbarino Sr. is survived by his wife, Angelina Garbarino; his brother, Fiore Garbarino of Pacifica; and his sons, Dave and Allen Garbarino, both of whom live in Novato, and Ray Garbarino of San Rafael. All three of Mr. Garbarino Sr.'s sons are employed by Marin Sanitary Service.
Plans for a memorial service have not yet been finalized.