East Bay ‘Pie Guy’ dies after decades of joyful baking

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Francisco “Pancho” Aranda, San Lorenzo man known as the “Pie Guy” died on January 28, 2022. Memorial services will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, February 23 and 24, 2022. (Esther Vigile)

To many, he was affectionately nicknamed “the Pie Guy”. East Bay baker Francisco “Pancho” Aranda died last month at the age of 93, after spending a lifetime baking countless pies and other delicious baked goods, a joy and passion he he continued to share with those around him even after his life as a professional baker ended with his retirement.

He was a quiet man and not very talkative, according to his family, and one of the ways of expressing himself was cooking.

Aranda came to the United States as a young teenager from Mexico and settled in the Oakland area. He worked hard for a living and took any job he could find.

“Then he finally got a job at a bakery,” his daughter Esther Vigil shared with KTVU, adding, “and after work he would stay and learn just because he wanted to advance.”

He later married and started a family, and he used baking as his main skill to support his ever-growing family. “He had to pay for seven children, so he always had two jobs,” the girl recalls, noting that at one time he and a business partner even opened their own bakery.

He took pride in his craft, which he cultivated to perfection during his nearly 35 years as a baker at Svenhard’s Swedish Bakery in Oakland on Adeline St. He eventually decided to retire from that job, so he could stay home to help his wife who was battling cancer at the time.

And because he wasn’t going to work, his family helped him pursue his love of baking by turning his indoor patio into a bakery.

“He had a full bloom [bakery]”said Vigil, “two blenders, a double oven, a grill, a freezer, a fridge, so he was able to do his cooking in there. That way it wasn’t so awkward for him.”

During the holidays, he took advantage of this workspace. It would become like Santa’s baking workshop. KTVU featured the “Pie Guy” in 2017, in a story about the 89-year-old who baked dozens of pies for his family and friends.

And while Aranda was known for its exquisite pies, from pumpkin to apple, peach and even ground meat, its pastry repertoire offered a varied selection, which was widely shared.

“Every year he had to do a ton of stuff. Even when he had to bake cookies and bread or whatever, he would give it to the neighbor and whoever was there. You know, ‘Hey, you gotta get some’ “Vigil remembers his father telling those around him.

On Thanksgiving and Christmas, he baked 30 to 40 pies for neighbors, friends, for parties, and even for the nurses and doctors he saw on doctor’s visits.

During the past holiday season, even though his health was failing, he did not give up his tradition of giving away his pies. With a lot of help from his daughter, he was able to hand out his signature pies one last time. “They weren’t as nice as my dad’s,” the daughter said, “but they turned out.”

Vigil said her dad was pretty weak and worried he didn’t have the energy to make his pies, so she stepped up. “…since 2017 he had been teaching me how he did it, so I was prepared,” the girl explained.

She said she ended up doing a lot of the heavy lifting, but her dad was there for quality control to make sure everything was up to his standards.

“He got weaker and weaker. And it would be like, ‘No dad, don’t worry, you stay here. You tell me what to do,'” the girl explained, calling her her mentor who told her. guided her all the way. She performed the delicate operation of rolling the crust and then after whipping the pie filling, she took a sample to her father. “I would give him a taste. And [ask]’Hey Dad, what does he need?'”

Vigil said that on Christmas, his deteriorating health only allowed him to roll one pie crust, but it brought him joy to see that even then he was able to participate in the activity he loved so much in life, so she documented the moment on video.

During his last days, it was his pastry that he dreamed of. The girl said she and her siblings took turns watching over him, and on one of her restless nights of sleep when she was on duty, she sat down next to him and snuggled him up. heard dreams of making lightning.

“He said in Spanish,” she recalled, “‘I’ll let you fill in the eclairs.’ Then, moments later, he said: “‘I think we only have a little, we should do more.’ My dad didn’t know how to do a little,” the girl joked. “I was just honored to be there and share this moment,” she said.

He died on January 28 of congestive heart failure.

Vigil said that in honor of her father, she planned to continue this tradition he loved so much, spreading joy through baking, which her siblings encouraged her to do. “That’s what all my siblings say, you know, ‘Hey, you got the job now.’

This task will be the one she does this week, without her father being there to check on her work, because Aranda’s family will remember the man who shared so much of his passion with so many people. Memorial services will be held at the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery and Funeral Center in Hayward.

A vigil was scheduled for Wednesday, and family and friends planned to gather for a mass, burial and celebration of life on Thursday. And as it has been for so many moments in Aranda’s life, her presence and her love will be represented through her baked goods.

“I’m making peanut butter cookies from his recipes to bring to his celebration of life,” his daughter shared, adding, “They won’t taste as good as he made them.”

His presence and legacy will also be felt through the large, loving family he left behind. He was father, brother and husband, married for almost 70 years. He was an 11-year-old grandfather. He also had 16 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

Vigil said that in addition to his remarkable skills as a baker, his father will be remembered for his devotion to his family and as a quiet, reserved man who never asked for anything but worked hard and was always full. of love.

“He just did what he had to do, and he definitely left an impact,” the girl said. “He touched so many people.”

Francisco “Pancho” Aranda, known to many as the “Pie Guy”, was handing out dozens of pies during the holidays. The San Lorenzo resident died on January 28, 2022 at the age of 93. Memorial services will be held on February 23 and 24, 2022 at the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery and (Esther Vigile)

Esther Vigil with her late father, baker Francisco “Pancho” Aranda. Known as the “Pie Guy”, Aranda would hand out dozens of pies to friends and family during the holidays. He died on January 28. 2-22 to 93 years old. (Esther Vigile)

Baker Francisco “Pancho” Aranda, who enjoyed giving away pies during the holidays, died on January 28, 2022 at the age of 93. Memorial services will be held for the longtime resident of San Lorenzo, California on February 23-24, 2022. Holy Sepulcher Cemetery and Funeral (Esther Vigile)

Francisco “Pancho” Aranda doing what he loved the most. The retired baker was known to donate dozens of pies during the holidays. He died on January 28, 2022. (Esther Vigile)

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