Mario Hernandez was, these days, a very excited man. He was also happy -- because he was perennially happy. "He was always smiling. He was always laughing," recalls friend Manuel Mendoza. "He always had something funny to say, even if things weren't funny."
Hernandez was a talker. An animated guy. So Mendoza was all the more jolted this morning when he motored down Valencia. There was his friend Hernandez, prone on the sidewalk, being cradled by strangers. Mendoza ditched his truck and ran to help, but it was too late.
The 911 call came in at 8:45.
Neighbors saw a man sitting on the stoop of 1103-1107 Valencia suddenly thrust both hands in the air, this-is-a-stickup style. Then he slumped over. He had no pulse, and the paramedics onlookers summoned couldn't help, either.
Mendoza is uncertain of Hernandez's age, but pegged him at just 41. Officer Calvin Chow said there is no suspicion of wrongdoing, and no criminal investigation.
Hernandez died shortly after experiencing a long-awaited milestone. La Rondalla restaurant, where his friend Mendoza said he worked as a chef, finally reopened this month
after a seven-year sojourn
. Hernandez, per the police, lived above his newly active place of business, not far from where he sat this morning.
Hernandez also purportedly cooked at Cava 22
during La Rondalla's long dormancy.
SF Weekly was unable to get a hold of either restaurant this morning. Details regarding Hernandez's death were spotty; Medical Examiner's personnel on the scene did not have any details to disclose.
Mendoza said he recently discovered his friend was diabetic and suffered from high blood-pressure. "He was a very peaceful man. He just wanted to help people."