Frank Danzart, who died last month at age 92, came to Guerneville in the 1960s to be our garbage man. It wasn’t because that was all he could do, but because it’s what he wanted to do. Frank purchased the Russian River Garbage Business from Chester Dagnello and with years of hard work expanded it to include West Graton and Jenner. This operation became Sunrise Garbage Service, and reference to that company still appears on our bill from Recology.
In 1966, when our little family came to the river, we rented a nice house up the hill in Canyon One in Rio Nido. Frank came by to empty our garbage can, saw my wife out in the yard, and asked in his friendly way, “How’s your father doing?”
He was referring to me.
We were both in our 20s at the time. It took me a while to get over it, and Arline, bless her heart, still tells that story with relish.
In those days, we didn’t sort our garbage into color-coded containers that the garbage truck picked up off the street and set back down; we just threw it all into whatever can we had. Because of the narrow roads in Rio Nido and other places around here, Frank couldn’t get his regular garbage truck near our houses. He drove up those roads in a pickup with four big tote cans in the back. He dumped our stuff into one of those cans, hoisted it onto his back, and got the can into his pickup somehow.
When the tote cans were full, he drove his pickup down the hill to a bigger truck into which he dumped the stuff he had collected. He did this until the big truck was full. Then he took it to the landfill and dumped it all out, pushing and shoving with brooms and rakes. He handled our garbage three times in the process.
This got him to thinking. He drew up plans and had a small garbage truck built with openings on the sides and a pusher that shoved everything to the back. The truck could navigate our narrow roads, and, when he got to the landfill, it shoved the stuff out. Now he was handling our garbage only once.
Frank patented his invention and sent the idea to a company that changed some things and manufactured the trucks without honoring Frank’s patent.
Frank said, “How was I supposed to take the time to fight it? I had all this trash to pick up?”
That must have rankled, but I haven’t heard that Frank dwelled on it very long. However, he did dwell on what he considered the stupidity and unfairness of elected and appointed officials who informed him of regulations that made it more difficult for him to run his business. People who knew him well say he got so red in the face with such talk that they feared for his wellbeing. From what I know, Frank isn’t the only one in these parts for whom that was so.
Over the years, Frank mourned the loss of an infant daughter, his two sons and then Evelyn, his wife of 54 years. Still, Frank kept going. He spent time with friends. And he kept the faith, doing what he could to keep Guerneville’s St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in good repair. There is a picture of him with broom in hand at St. Elizabeth’s Outdoor Church with this caption under it: “The redoubtable Frank Danzart, who has led this cleanup for more than 40 years….”
St. Elizabeth’s was filled with hundreds of Frank’s friends for his Funeral Mass conducted by our warm-hearted Father Luis Penaloza. Father Luis told us that one day when Frank was at the church fixing something, the Father said to him, “Frank, I see you’re very religious?” Frank’s answer was, “Father, I’m not religious. I just like the Rosary and Holy Eucharist, that’s all.”
That’s about as clear-hearted as it gets.
Most clergy would love to have someone in their parish who is not religious the way Frank Danzart was not religious. And all of us were happy to have him as our trash hauler and friend.
Bob Jones is the former minister of the Guerneville and Monte Rio Community Church.