San Anselmo resident living the American Dream passes away.

Home News Joe Casalnuovo dies at 88 after living ‘American dream’ By: Nels Johnson (njohnson@marinij.com) Thursday, May 7, 2015 – 5:47 p.m. Joseph Louis Casalnuovo, a 55-year resident of Sleepy Hollow, unexpectedly passed away of natural causes on May 4. (Courtesy Casalnuovo family) Joseph Louis Casalnuovo of San Anselmo, a real estate lawyer who enchanted Civic Center audiences during a spirited battle with officials over permit fees, died Monday after suffering a heart attack while recovering in Kentfield from a fractured knee. He was 88. Mr. Casalnuovo, a 55-year Sleepy Hollow resident with a wide circle of friends, became a folk hero of sorts when he took umbrage at affordable housing fees imposed on lot splits, finally prevailing when county officials waived a $46,400 charge on his San Anselmo property. The case set a “mom and pop” lot split precedent that eased fees for others in similar circumstances. The no-nonsense, never-say-die Mr. Casalnuovo made a series of colorful appearances before county panels two years ago, commanding the podium in his trademark bib overalls and baseball cap as he lectured officials about the law, property regulation and the merits of using common sense. Not content when county supervisors threw in the towel on fees, he pressed constitutional issues in appellate court, where justices found his arguments unpersuasive. “Mr. Casalnuovo can now find some more productive use of his substantial energy to challenge actions he believes are wrong,” a relieved Deputy County Counsel David Zaltsman said after a final court showdown. Mr. Casalnuovo, described as a feisty elder with “Energizer Bunny batteries that never seem to give up” in news reports of his Civic Center encounters, treasured his press clippings, proudly showing them to rehabilitation nurses after he injured his knee in a recent fall. He was an Italian immigrant born in San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, and came to San Francisco’s North Beach in 1934 with parents Damiano and Giuseppa, and brothers “Sal the Barber” and Lou. He attended Galileo High School and graduated from St. Mary’s College in Moraga with a degree in English after serving as student body president. He graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley in 1953. ‘He definitely lived one version of the American dream,” rising from poverty as an immigrant to embrace a new language and culture and enjoy a robust life, said a son, Marin firefighter Charlie Casalnuovo. “He was so proud of the fact that even though there was a time as a young child when he was handed two pieces of bread and told to pretend one was cheese….he eventually was able to provide college educations to all of his children.” He began working as a lawyer in 1954 under mentor Charles P. Molinari, became a partner in Dodds, Berger, Molinari, Casalnuovo, Vannelli, Nadel, & Links, and in 1990 started a San Anselmo practice. He retired in 2006. He was an exuberant sports fan, rooting for Bay Area teams including those on the youth circuit. He volunteered for 23 years with the old Fairfax-Sleepy Hollow Little League, including three years as president. He served as president of the Marin Boys’ Club and coached football at Sir Francis Drake High School, and for two decades organized and operated Christmas tree lots to raise funds for youth sports. “It was his philosophy that sports benefited all kids, and he did whatever he could to ensure that they all had an opportunity to participate regardless of financial challenges or physical ability,” Charlie Casalnuovo said. He was an acclaimed gardener, with his Sleepy Hollow tract festooned with scores of rose bushes, fruit and ornamental trees, flower beds and vegetable gardens. He was proud of propagating a heirloom Tomato Giuseppe, using the seeds from the best fruit to start new plants the next year, distributing seedlings to acquaintances far and wide. He was a member of the Italian Catholic Federation, serving three years as president. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Lorraine; six sons, Damian, Steve, Albert, Charlie, Joe and Sal; two daughters, Josette Montgomery and Yvonne Braddick; 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. May 17 at St. Rita Church in Fairfax. Memorial contributions may go to St. Mary’s College Class of 1950 Millennium Scholarship David Nolen Swaim Owner Tam Realty Inc DRE-1070789 609 San Anselmo Ave San Anselmo CA 94960 415-710-5504 www.tamrealty.com

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