Richard Tuck — the entrepreneur who founded with the help of many volunteers — died Tuesday at his El Cerrito home at age 63, according to the Contra Costa Times.
His business associate Tim Sauer said Tuck had suffered from gall bladder cancer that was discovered 14 months ago, the newspaper reported.
Tuck, founder of the executive search firm Lander International was an avid collector of historic amusement arcade items, including those from San Francisco's famous Playland at Ocean Beach, which closed in 1972.
Journalist Sewall Glinternick wrote of the how Tuck's passion gave rise to El Cerrito's unique homage to Playland:
"Tuck's personal tribute to the famed S.F. amusement park was born in the year 2000 when he bought the vacant Blue and Gold Food Market building at 10979 San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito to use as headquarters for his executive search business. A former part owner of a one-ring circus and long-time collector of amusement memoribilia, Tuck used the back of his new headquarters building to store his extensive collection of amusement items — including many things from the original Playland.
"Upon hearing of his collection, community members began volunteering to help Tuck organize and catalog the material — which led to the local businessman deciding to to turn the back of his business into a 9,000 square foot non-profit family museum dedicated to the memory of long-gone amusement venues.
"After eight long ycars of designing and construction by Tuck and his army of dediceted volunteers, the museum — quite naturally named Playland-Not-at-the-Beach — opened for business on May 31, 2008, and has been growing as a major tourist attraction ever since."
San Francisco Chronicle writer Dave Ford began a 2004 profile of Tuck with these words:
"Amusement-park enthusiast Richard J. Tuck Jr. is a short, plump man of 56 who sees himself as a 12-year-old boy. He uses words like 'neat,' 'golly,' 'wow' and 'gee' without irony. A Peter Pan painting hangs in his office at the El Cerrito headquarters of Lander International, a recruiting firm he founded 25 years ago. He refers to other humans, from ages 8 to 80, as 'kids.' "
El Cerrito Patch writer Kyrsten Bean talked to Tuck last year when she , writing:
"Playland Not-at-the-Beach's creation dates back to when Tuck met Marvin Gold, Joe Mirante and Dave Warren. The four share a considerable penchant for all things Playland. Gold, Mirante and Warren had worked at Whitney's Playland as teenagers before it was torn down due to wear and tear...
" 'All three of us are kids who never grew up,' says Tuck.
"As they met repeatedly over time to share stories about their memories of Playland, Tuck formed a loose idea – the building he uses for his business, Lander International, would double as a substitution for idyllic funhouses of yore. People from carpenters to magicians showed up to help build this new place, though the current conceptualization was not readily apparent until a few years of trial and error had passed.
"While the building was being renovated to create the maze-like qualities inside, you could find laymen of many different fields working on projects in the hallways. 'We likened it to being on the steering committee for building Disneyland; with no Walt Disney,' says Tuck. He gave these volunteers free rein."
In 2009, Tuck received Inc. magazine's "Outstanding Stand-up Performance by a CEO" award.
Tuck earned a master's degree in English and taught English in college and high school before becoming a businessman, according to his online biography on the Lander International website.
Memorial services for Tuck, a Petaluma native who moved to El Cerrito in 1974 and obtained his master's and bachelor's degrees from Sonoma State University, have not been planned at this time, the Contra Costa Times reported.