Obituary: John C. Weston

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John C. Weston
January 25, 1938 to April 1, 2019

Photo: John C. Weston

Longtime charismatic Potrero Hill resident, John C. Weston, passed away on April 1.  He was 81. His larger-than-life personality had livened up his block of Vermont Street for more than 40 years.

“We called him the little mayor of the block,” said neighbor Matt Kruger. “His doors were open to a lot of people. He would just go up out of the blue to tourists and invite them in for a cocktail.”

According to his longest and best friend, Tone De Graaf, Weston volunteered to take those tourists on city tours, usually by car, but sometimes on three scooters he owned. Weston traveled extensively but was proud of living in San Francisco and liked showing it off.

Born January 25, 1938, in Portland, Oregon to Melvin and Grace Weston, John had a twin brother, Joe, who became a notable real estate magnate in Portland, and a younger brother, Jim, who resides in Seattle. According to Joe, the family was poor growing up during the Great Depression.  Grace frequently dressed the brothers as triplets.

After attending Catholic schools in Portland, Weston went to work for Universal Films, distributing 16-millimeter educational movies to schools across the country. He managed offices in Dallas, Chicago, New York and Portland. 

It was in Dallas in 1959 that he met De Graaf, a Belgian native, later sponsoring him for American citizenship. Frequently described as quick to tell a joke, De Graaf recalled Weston being a big practical joker as well. Weston showed up unannounced at De Graaf’s 70th birthday party in London disguised as a champagne server. Another time De Graaf was vacationing in the French Alps and Weston made a surprise appearance as a luggage porter.

After the Universal Films job, Weston worked as a sales representative for Arkay Packaging Company, peddling high-end boxes that often cost more than the contents, mostly cosmetics, contained within them. After that position, he obtained a degree at Portland State University, and traveled to Europe with the goal of becoming a chef. While he didn’t develop into a professional cook, Weston returned to Europe often in his life, once staying at a bed and breakfast in Italy for the better part of a year.

According to Julia De Graaf, Tone’s daughter, Weston had a strong sense of aesthetics and drew on his European travels to creatively landscape the courtyard and garden adjoining his home. Sounds of him playing piano or guitar or singing 1970s folk songs often permeated the yard. 

“It was always so incredible joyful here,” said Julie, who lives in an in-law apartment on the property. “People could come by unannounced and the door was always open. His life always seemed like a party. He had an incredible number of friends.”

In 2016, Weston developed health issues that required hospice care. While he’d been a diabetic for some time, he suffered from kidney failure, which put him on dialysis, and then contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. A noted dog lover, who, stories have it, years ago used to take one of his dogs, Hobo, on his scooter, Weston worked to find a good home for his last canine a few months ago.

Despite his health failings, his knowledge of his surroundings remained “100 percent” according to Joe. The twin added that the one complaint he had with John, who was born first, was that he took all the hair and good teeth, which he kept to the end. He added that his brother was also an incredibly patient person, taking that particular gene as well.

“He knew no strangers. He could go into a room of people and get to know them immediately,” Joe relayed. “He also loved politics. He would ask your position on something and he’d just purposely take an opposite position.”

In addition to his brothers, Weston is survived by a nephew, Jeff Weston of Portland; a niece, Tiffany Weston-Mork of Vancouver, Washington; and a great-nephew. His family reported that Weston had many friends in San Francisco and worldwide.

“He was so full of life,” said Julia De Graaf. “He surely will leave a big void in this area.”