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Many Marin residents have a story to tell about comedian and actor Robin Williams, whether it be about that time they saw him at a comedy show or chatted with him at a baseball game.

Marin residents are still mourning the loss of Williams, 63, who was found dead Monday after he apparently hanged himself by a belt in a bedroom of his Tiburon home, according to the Marin County Sheriff's Office. In an effort to ease the pain of his death, locals are sharing their fond memories of the Oscar-winning humorist.

Neighbor William Clements said Williams had a huge presence in the neighborhood and the Marin community at large as he was often seen bicycling or at San Francisco Giants games. He said he once spent a nearly six-hour flight from New York to San Francisco sitting next to Williams, immersed in nonstop conversation with him.

"He was of course super high energy, but also as humble, authentic and genuine as he no doubt was before fame intervened. I was thoroughly impressed and lost in the gabfest. Watching performances later I felt I had a little extra insight from that conversation and could feel a bit of the pain that is often at the root of great comedy," Clements said.

It's no secret Williams experienced a fair share of pain in his lifetime. He struggled with substance abuse problems for decades, an affliction he candidly talked about during his stand-up comedy routines. His publicist told news organizations Monday that Williams had also recently been dealing with a bout of severe depression.


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U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who served on the Marin County Board of Supervisors for six years, said Williams was a special person who will be deeply missed. She added that it's important for people to rally together to help one another during difficult emotional stages in life.

"I send the heartfelt condolences of my entire family to Robin Williams' family as our entire country mourns the loss of this remarkable genius who made us smile, laugh uncontrollably or cry. His ability to connect with everyone was a rare gift indeed. We will always remember Robin and we must also rededicate ourselves to helping each other through the dark times," Boxer said Tuesday in a statement.

Childlike demeanor

Comedian Geoffrey Bolt of Fairfax said he has performed numerous times with Williams and that they first met about 35 years ago at The Other Cafe, a comedy club in San Francisco.

Bolt said he had just seen Williams three weeks ago after he returned from filming scenes for the "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," a film scheduled for release in December. He said Williams was thrilled to finally be back home after traveling to Canada and New York.

He said Williams was an amazing man who always retained his childlike demeanor and personality.

"He was a sweet little boy and you could see it on stage and in his movies," Bolt said, adding that Williams had a large collection of lead toy army men. "I'm going to miss him a lot."

A note is left with flowers on the sidewalk in front of the home of Robin Williams in Tiburon on Tuesday.
A note is left with flowers on the sidewalk in front of the home of Robin Williams in Tiburon on Tuesday. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Down-to-earth and generous with his time, Williams was always willing to help out his friends, Bolt said.

"One day I was having a discussion with my daughter about going to college in the Bronx, New York. She was trying to decide whether to drop out or give up. I handed the phone to Robin and said 'You talk to her.' He scolded her. She got her PhD and is now working as a doctor at BioMarin," he said.

Chance meetings

Everybody has to go grocery shopping or leave their house at some point to run errands, and this gave countless Marin residents the opportunity to interact with Williams. Williams was also known to attend local comedy shows, art shows and concerts.

J.A. Donnelly of San Rafael first met Williams in 2007 at an open microphone night hosted by Simon Costa at the now defunct Bookbeat bookstore in Fairfax. Williams came in and asked to do a 20-minute set — a request that was readily granted.

It was there Donnelly said he got to talk with the famed comedian.

"It was a privilege to talk with him for 10 minutes out front of the cafe," he said.

Donnelly had another chance meeting with Williams in December 2013 when he attended a Christmas Eve mass in San Anselmo.

"Sitting across the aisle was Robin and his wife. I actually walked with him elbow-to-elbow down the aisle for communion," he said.

Easy interaction

For Colin Henry of San Rafael Williams was a charismatic man who always had a smile on his face and was kind enough to remember the names of those he briefly met. Despite only meeting Williams about five times in the past few years, Henry said the two were on a first-name basis.

Henry is a disc-jockey, but also holds a few valet jobs throughout the county — which is how he met Williams. He said Williams was a joy to interact with.

"He was one of us, he was approachable," Henry said. "I think he got a lot of joy out of putting smiles on other people's faces."

Singer and songwriter Anthony Bear of Fairfax met Williams a few years ago when he was playing a gig at Bookbeat. It was open microphone night and the owner announced they had a surprise guest.

Bear said it was Williams who took the stage.

"Everybody was like 'Oh my gosh.' There were only like 40 people there and he was so funny," Bear said. "It's the best opening gig I've ever had."

Bear briefly talked to Williams outside the store, where he said the two stood and made small talk.

"Afterward I was like, I should have said this or I should have said that," Bear said. "(But) he was so personable."

Marin residents have also taken to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to share their fond memories of the quick-witted actor and comedian.

Ira Rothken of Novato said on Twitter that he got a brief glimpse of Williams in 1994.

"My wife and I were running. She got tired and I started running backwards to make fun (just) as Robin Williams drove by slowly and laughed," Rothken wrote.

Memories of Williams and condolences for his family can be shared on his Legacy.com obituary page at http://tinyurl.com/RMWilliamsMarin.

Follow Megan Hansen's blog at http://blogs.marinij.com/bureaucratsandbaking.

THROCKMORTON GOES DARK

A popular Marin venue where Robin Williams entertained went dark Tuesday night. The staff at the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley canceled a scheduled comedy show, and put this note on the window outside:

"Due to the devastating news of the death of our friend, fellow comedian and neighbor, Robin Williams, we are canceling tonight's show as we deal with our extreme grief.

Robin was too much a part of the success of Tuesday night comedy that we can't pretend today is just another day. It's a day to reflect.

When a tragedy occurs and a comedian makes a joke about it, it usually fails. That's when the comedian will say, 'Too soon.' Well, this time it really is too soon.

We will return next week. Thanks for understanding."