Alfred Furrer, the last of a group of San Francisco Bay Area World War I veterans who staged annual reunions for more than half a century, has died. He was 97.
Furrer, of Richmond, died Sunday of congestive heart failure in a San Pablo hospital, just three months after he toasted the memory of the 31 other deceased members of the Last Man Club during a Veterans Day ceremony.
Victor Parachini, the next-to-last member of the club, formed in 1932, died a year ago at the age of 89. On the previous Veterans Day, the two men had met for lunch, marking the 55th and final club meeting.
As the man who outlived his comrades, Furrer was entitled to the club's kitty and a 1921 bottle of French champagne sporting a label signed by the others. But the club dues had long since been exhausted and the champagne had spoiled.
"It's a privilege to be honored by people just for sticking around all this time, but, you know, I had to bury a lot of people along the way," Furrer told a crowd of reporters and other onlookers as he sipped from a new bottle of champagne.
"I came through floods, fires, wars . . . I don't know if it's an honor or a sort of curse."
A native of San Francisco, Furrer had been married only two weeks when he was shipped out to France, where he served two years hauling ammunition to the front. Of the 100 men with him in the 4th Ammunition Train, he recalled last November, only about half survived.
Describing himself as "no hero," Furrer said he had tried to avoid duty at the front.
"I tried my darndest to get out," he said.
After completing his tour of duty, Furrer opened an office supply story and became active in civic affairs. He retired in 1959, after being named Richmond's Man of the Year.
Furrer's wife died four years ago. The couple, married 67 years, had no children.
Funeral arrangements are pending.