Martin A. Francis, a San Leandro who spent his adult lifetime studying, honoring and displaying the flag, passed away Friday night.
"He was San Leandro's Flag Man," said Shelia Young, the city's mayor emeritus. "He was the most patriotic man I've ever met."
According to an e-mail passed on by Young, Martin was at the Veteran's Memorial Building on Bancroft Avenue Friday night, attending a meeting of the American Legion, when he complained of feeling ill.
"Someone took a check of his vitals and 911 was called," according to the e-mail. "He later died at the hospital."
No other details were available at this time.
A simple man who drove an old station wagon, Francis was revered in San Leandro for his knowledge of the flag and its history.
Former city councilman Bob Glaze said Francis, a school janitor, was especially passionate about teaching students about the Stars and Stripes.
"Flags were his life," Glaze said. "He really lived to do the Flag Day ceremony every year."
Last June a City Council proclamation named Francis to be San Leandro's Official Vexillologist, that is, a historian of the flag.
Former Mayor Tony Santos said he had known Francis for some 30 years and, like many others, admired his dedication to the Flag Day ceremonies that he had been holding for more than 25 years.
"We're all going to miss him," Santos said.
Former city councilwoman Surlene Grant said Francis would be particularly mourned by San Leandro's educational and civic communities.
Francis had been the caretaker for his wife, Iona, who survives him.
(Thanks to Tim Holmes who contributed the picture of Francis standing behind then-Mayor Santos at a rally. If you have pictures of Francis or his flag collection, please add them to this story.)