J. C. (Pete) Sebastian; Owner of General Store Visited by Guests at San Simeon

J. C. (Pete) Sebastian, whose name and general store became synonymous with the small California city of San Simeon, has died.

Sebastian, who catered to celebrities ranging from Winston Churchill to Cary Grant in addition to the tens of thousands of tourists to Hearst's Castle, was 81.

Sebastian died Wednesday of a heart attack, according to his daughter, Mary Sebastian Hansen.

In addition to running the store bearing his name, he served the tiny community of San Simeon as its postmaster, notary public and registrar of voters.

The general store, which included gas pumps, a coffee shop and post office, is registered as a state historical monument.

Sebastian worked as a landscaper around newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst's art-bedecked mansion in the 1920s. Now a museum run by the state Department of Parks and Recreation, the sprawling home is one of the most popular tourist attractions in California.

Hearst, founder of the newspaper chain that carries his name and model for Orson Welles' classic movie "Citizen Kane," often entertained celebrities and business and government notables at the hilltop mansion that at one time featured a lavish zoo.

Churchill, Grant and playwright George Bernard Shaw were among the many prominent visitors to the store Sebastian took over from his father in 1933. He sold the place in 1971 and retired, said Bob Buddell, the store's present owner.

Sebastian told an interviewer in 1986 that he always considered Hearst a neighbor, dating to the pre-castle days when the publisher and his friends would stay in the Hotel Bayview next to his family's store.

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