His name is George Barbero, and he's there to pick up all the unsold breads they're about to throw away.
He puts them in shopping bags, and stuffs as many bags as he can into his 1995 Toyota Corolla. Then he begins his rounds for the night, delivering the breads to more than a dozen local churches and other organizations that feed the homeless.
"He can't bear to see food go to waste, and he can't bear to see people go hungry," says Anne Miller of South Berkeley Community Church, which serves free meals to the homeless every Wednesday.
But that's the only time he uses his car. Both he and his wife, Rina (short for Catterina), 87, take global warming seriously, so they walk everywhere they can instead of driving. (That's probably why they're in such great shape.) If the distance is too far to walk, they take public transportation.
"We are not consumers, we are civilized -- or we aim to be," he says.
This is just the latest chapter in an extraordinary life that includes stints in both the Italian fascist youth organization (much against his will) and the anti-fascist underground during World War II.
He was born here in California in 1918, but his father died when he was 11, at the beginning of the Great Depression. So his mother decided to move the family back to Italy, where the economic
But there was a huge downside: Mussolini and his fascists were in power, and it wasn't long before young George was forced to join the Fascist Youth.
He hated every second of it. And he hated it more when he was drafted into the Italian army a few years later.
He also despised the Germans who were fighting beside him in occupied Albania and Yugoslavia.
"They'd shoot at random at the whole civilian population," he says with disgust.
On Sept. 8, 1943, Mussolini was overthrown. As soon as he heard the news, George threw down his rifle and started walking toward home. He spent the next few months in hiding.
"It was like being an escapee from a prison," he says. "But the hardest part was that nobody told me I was doing the right thing."
In May 1944 Mussolini was put back in power as a German puppet, and his first act was to issue an ultimatum to deserters like George: Rejoin your units immediately or be shot.
George's response was to join the Resistance, where he fought against the Germans for the rest of the war. He was in charge of logistics for his underground cell.
But he doesn't consider himself a hero.
"My biggest achievement was that I never wavered," he says. "It's not a big achievement, but at least I was not a coward."
After the war he returned to California, where he got a job as a janitor at UC Berkeley.
A jack-of-all-trades, he was a success at whatever he turned his hand to, quickly working his way up the ladder as painter, diesel mechanic and shop foreman.
For 21 years he was in charge of making the leak-detecting equipment for the nuclear experiments at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, finally retiring in 1979.
Not surprisingly, given his World War II experience, he has marched against every war from Vietnam to Iraq, and he has written protest letters to every president since John F. Kennedy.
Curiously, this man who works so closely with local churches to feed the homeless doesn't belong to a church himself. As a self-described "old-fashioned lefty," he's not a churchy kind of guy.
"But he lives Christ's principles in everything he does," says Miller. "He may not talk the talk, but he sure does walk the walk."
Reach Martin Snapp at 510-262-2768 or e-mail email@example.com.