Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Frank Marquez (1951-2023)

Frank Marquez, 1987.

“The Wine Guy”

Frank Fidencio Marquez was a familiar face in Coronado for many years. A 1969 graduate of Coronado High School, Frank helped his parents manage the family business, the Crown City Inn & Bistro. He later became a wine wholesaler, buying and selling fine wines, consulting, lecturing and writing about wine. More recently, he became a wine steward at the Coronado Vons and affectionately embraced his nickname of, “The Wine Guy.”

Frank died earlier this year at the age of 72, from heart complications. He was a loving soul, and will be remembered as a good husband and family man who enjoyed life to the maximum. He always wore a big smile.

Frank Marquez Junior, Frank Senior, and Frank III.

Coronado had always been special to Frank. He grew up in the family home on Ocean Blvd, in the days before the Coronado Bridge, when ferryboats carried you and your vehicle across the bay to San Diego.

He enjoyed the beach, and, like so many of his generation, Frank was held captive by the music of the 1960s, what history now refers to as, “First Generation Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Frank and his lovely wife of 30 years, Kristy.

Frank described his early life in an interview for The Coronado Times in 2012, paraphrased below:

“I grew up in Coronado in the ’50s & ’60s, when Coronado had no traffic lights and was just a sleepy little Navy town. Growing up in ‘nado back then was like being on Tom Sawyer’s Island. I wonder if the kids today could imagine — goofing off, riding bikes, going to the beach and hanging out at the pool, except that our surroundings in those years were magically different than they are today.”

Upon graduation from CHS, Frank attended Southwestern College, and then the University of California at San Diego, where he received a degree in Drama.

Frank was an avid collector of record albums, Disney memorabilia, and books. He was a voracious reader and even wrote a novel about the wine business — Overture: 1961 The Perfect Vintage. He valued his friendships and stayed in touch with many from school as well as from the wine industry.

Frank, taken upstairs at Chez Loma Restaurant.

Over the years, Frank had several careers. After college, he attended film school in Los Angeles and worked at coordinating several special film events, the largest of which was the popular 1981 Halloween Fright Festival at the Hyatt Hotel, near the Los Angeles Airport.

Frank eventually returned to Coronado and helped his parents manage the family business. He was also active in the San Diego County Lodging Association.

Frank’s sister Pilar remembered his laugh, and how he could find enjoyment, no matter what he was working on. “One year, Frank played Santa Claus for the Coronado Department Store,” said Pilar. “But he had to quit because he couldn’t stay in character. He was having too much fun!”

Frank, Pilar, Adriana – at their home on Ocean Blvd, 1988.

Pilar also remembered how Frank loved hanging out in Coronado with friends and listening to music, especially The Beatles. “He and his wife Kristy had a weekly champagne brunch tradition of sitting at home and listening to ‘Breakfast with The Beatles,’ a popular, Sunday morning radio podcast. They were married for 30 years, and my brother could not say enough about how much he loved Kristy.”

Upon word of his passing, many friends reached out to share their memories of Frank Marquez. Dean Atkinson was one. “I knew Frank from our youth in Coronado. He was one of the nicest and most unassuming people I have ever met,” he said.

Another was Eliot Stein, who was best friends with Frank in high school. “What I admired most about Frank was his commitment to what he believed in. He despised racism, prejudice and bigotry of any kind. When he looked at somebody, they were a member of the human race, period, regardless of color, creed, religion or race. He never, ever made a racist joke, comment or observation in all the years I knew him. Frank easily made friends with people from all different backgrounds.”

Eliot remembered how impressed they were as young men with Robert F. Kennedy in his run for the presidency. “After school (1968) Frank and I would volunteer at his campaign headquarters in downtown San Diego.”

Frank, sampling a special “red.” Photo courtesy Coronado Times.

With school behind him, Frank concentrated on his passion for wine and restaurant management. He was fortunate to have spent most of his career working in those fields. He owned and operated the First Street Bistro in Ashland, Oregon, which had a 1940s movie theme.

“My father loved wine,” Frank said in the 2012 interview. “So, I was exposed to wine at an early age. I started taking wine classes at UCSD, when I was an undergraduate. I went into wine professionally when I started a wine-friendly bistro in Ashland.

Frank, with his son Christopher, and wife Kristy.

“After selling that business, I returned to San Diego and started working as a broker for Frog’s Leap Winery and Ravenswood. I then worked for a premium Italian distributor selling Italian wines and spirits to restaurants and wine shops. Through those connections, I went back into being a professional wine buyer for the Wine Bank. Eventually, I returned to Coronado as wine steward for Von’s, and then moved to Wally’s Marketplace in Imperial Beach, and then to Avenue Liquor, here on the island.”

The staff and management at Vons of Coronado remembered Frank with great fondness. Vons Supervisor, David Senoff, conjured up dozens and dozens of fun memories of Frank during the nearly five years he worked there.

Frank, mother-in-law Carolyn, wife Kristy, and sister Pilar.

“He was the consummate professional wine steward in the Coronado Vons Wine & Spirits Department,” said Senoff. “If you had a wine question, you could rest assured Frank had the answer, every time. Frank had incredible knowledge about wine and was always ready to suggest just the right wine for your special occasion.

“It wasn’t enough that he knew just the right vintage wine for any Coronado local’s party. He took it to the next level, inquiring about the occasion, what the customer would be serving for this luncheon or dinner, what type of deserts might be served. Was it black tie or casual?

The Wine Guy and Gary Carter, at Von’s. Frank and Gary shared a passion for old comic books, music, film and trivia.

“I always loved stealing away from the front end of the store just to watch him perform his magic from a distance. Customers absolutely loved him.”

Senoff described how the most regular of customers would come in the door and immediately ask where Frank was, and if Frank wasn’t working that day, they would turn around and leave, coming in another time when Frank was there.

A happy moment in 2020. From left, Frank’s niece Erica, son Christopher, Frank, Frank III, and daughter Virginia.

“Frank had that kind of smoothness that endeared our customers to him,” said Senoff. “He made shopping at the store a happy and joyful experience, and treated not just his regulars and first-time customers like family, but all of the employees in our store as well. He will be missed.”

Frank’s final career was in property management, handling a large apartment complex in San Diego. When he retired, he liked to spend time at the beach or camping in Cuyamaca and the area around Julian with his wife and dogs. He spent a lot time writing fiction and writing about wine. Frank was a die-hard Chargers fan, loved Disneyland, the movies, classic rock and reading Sci-Fi.

Kristy and Frank. Family and friends called theirs a love affair that crossed two centuries. They were married for 30 years and a thousand memories.

Frank is survived by his wife Kristy (San Diego) and his four children, Adriana (Oregon), Frankie (Orange County), Virginia (Reno), and Christopher (San Clemente). Frank is also survived by his sisters, Adriana Marquez (San Diego) and Pilar Straw (Coronado). He is also survived by his first wife, Suzanne (Oregon).

A celebration of life for Frank will be planned later this year. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made, “In Memory of Frank Marquez Jr.,” to the American Heart Association.

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Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler is a professional writer, publicist and Coronado historian. Formerly a writer with the Los Angeles Times, he has been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Europe. He also owns Part-Time PR (a subsidiary of Schooner or Later Promotions), specializing in helping Coronado businesses reach larger audiences with well-placed public relations throughout the greater San Diego County. He writes obituaries and living-obituaries under the cover "Coronado Storyteller." To find out more, write or call [email protected], or (619) 742-1034.

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