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California man who may be last Golden Gate Bridge worker dies

Jack Balestreri was 17 years old when he got a job helping build the Golden Gate Bridge. He had hoped to make it to the span's 75th anniversary next month.

But Balestreri -- believed to be the last surviving bridge worker -- died of natural causes at his San Francisco home on April 21, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Friday. He was 95.

Starting in 1933, Balestreri did concrete work on the south tower of the bridge and the San Francisco anchorage for three years.

His daughter, Gayle Balestreri, said her father would take the family to Fort Point on the San Francisco side of the bridge and tell them about the span and the work he had done.

"He was always very proud of that," she said.

Balestreri was among a group of bridge workers honored at the span's 50th anniversary in 1987.

Golden Gate Bridge District officials believe Balestreri was the last of the bridge workers to die, spokeswoman Mary Currie said.

Edward Ashoff, another bridge worker, died on April 14 at his home after a long illness, the Chronicle reported. Ashoff of Mill Valley, who carried rivets and bolts during construction of the south tower, was 97.

Ashoff continued to work for the bridge district after the span was constructed, serving as a toll collector and retiring as toll captain in 1976.

Balestreri's life took a different turn. He played professional baseball and worked at a steel shipyard. He married Marina Saponati, who also worked at the shipyard, in 1943, his daughter said, and went on to work as draftsman for a company in San Francisco for nearly 40 years.

"He was a true San Franciscan," Gayle Balestreri said. "He loved the city and its history."

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