Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Harry Aleo, 1919-2008

If you've ever been strolling down 24th Street in Noe Valley, you've probably noticed the storefront of Twin Peaks Properties. It's hard to miss.

The window display seems designed specifically to tweak the sensibilities of modern-day residents of Noe Valley and San Francisco in general. The signage refers to the area as "Looney Valley" and contains various items praising Republicans and/or chiding Democrats. It also has a sign saying "It will always be Army Street to me," which will make sense to you if you lived here in SF before the mid-90's and remember when Cesar Chavez St. was Army St.

What you might not know is that Twin Peaks Properties was owned by Harry Aleo, a true San Francisco original who passed away last Saturday at 88 years old.

Aleo was born and raised in Noe Valley. After a short stint with the Brooklyn Dodgers was cut short by injury, he joined the Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. After that, he returned to SF and founded Twin Peaks Properties.

Ever hear of a racehorse called Lost in the Fog? Aleo owned the horse, which won 10 straight races and had career winnings of $978,099. Sadly, Lost in the Fog had to be euthanized after developing cancer.

Early in the thoroughbred's career, Aleo started getting multimillion-dollar offers. "If I sold the horse and took all of this tons of money, I don't have a race horse," Aleo said at the time. "I'm 85 years old and I've been trying to get a good horse for 20 years. If I got all that money, I'd pay half in taxes and then I'd be out looking for another horse."

They don't make many like Harry Aleo any more. Although I never met the man, I love the fact that he seemed to enjoy getting under the skin of the "latte-sipping liberals" who slowly took over his neighborhood. Even though he and I would never see eye-to-eye on politics, I admire his spirit and I'm sad to see him go.

This one's for you, Harry.

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