Oliver “Bud” Hendren, a revered auto mechanic, maven tinkerer and loving family man whose endless supply of jokes brought joy to all who knew him, passed away peacefully in his sleep near his home in Point Reyes Station on August 3. He was 84.
A U.S. Veteran and the former proprietor of Bud’s Auto Service, in Point Reyes, Bud spent much of his life repairing cars and mending hearts with socket wrenches, sweat and relentless laughter. Though he never had children of his own, he played an active role in the lives of his many nieces and nephews, regaling them with stories, teaching them to water ski and dragooning them to taste his many at times questionable culinary creations.
“He had a huge heart and was extremely generous,” said his niece Alysse Thomas-Holman. “And holy smokes, I don’t know where he got all the jokes... You’d think he was telling a story and then in the end there would be a punch line. I had to set up a separate email account because he was blowing up my inbox at work with jokes.”
Oliver Marvin Hendren was born on April 27, 1927 in Sebastopol, to Oliver and Clara Louise Hendren. Clara, an architect, and Oliver, a farmer, owned a dairy in Bolinas before moving to Point Reyes Station in 1942.
That same year, while still a junior at Tomales High, Bud enlisted in the Navy and was deployed oversees. He was sent to Japan. “He loved being in Japan,” said his nephew Sidney “Skip” Vicknair. “He used to tell about this one rickshaw driver who would always give him rides and who he would always leave a generous tip. When Bud was getting ready to return to the U.S. the driver pulled up in a brand new Rickshaw, which he said he had been able to purchase with the added tips.”
After returning from duty and earning his high school degree, Bud moved back to Point Reyes Station and began working as a television repair technician in San Rafael. In 1950, the family house burned down. Clara eventually designed and oversaw the construction of a new house, which was built adjacent to the old one. Bud lived there for the rest of his life.
Bud’s love for his many nieces and nephews was unmistakable. “Before my mom and dad got married, he was like our dad because he didn’t have kids of his own,” Skip said. “He never talked about having to have a kids. I think with all of his nieces and nephews the void was filled.”
On summer vacations when the family would travel to Lake Mendocino to go water skiing, Bud would prop anyone small enough on top of his life belt and let them piggyback ski. When Alysse was still just a tyke, he let her drive his boat, Little Toot. “I was so excited and just kept turning the wheel in circles and circles and he was so patient,” she said.
On birthdays, Bud would use his computer to create personalized birthday cards. “As he got older we didn’t have the heart to tell him that he would send the same one’s over and over,” Alysse said. “We didn’t care.”
In the late 60s, Bud met Charlotte, a neighbor who had recently gotten divorced. At first the relationship was strictly platonic, but it soon blossomed into more, and the two were married in Reno in 1970. He was 43 at the time.
Or, as he made it readily known, he was 39. “He used to tell everyone that he was always 39,” Skip said. “He would turn 52, or whatever, and we would ask, ‘Uncle Bud, how old are you now?’ And he would always look at us with a smile and reply, ‘I’m 39.’ It was a huge family joke.”
Around 1975, Bud began repairing cars for a local mechanic, Joe Horrick, at the gas station in Point Reyes. In his spare time he took community college courses on automotive repair in Novato.
In 1985, Bud acquired the business from Horrick. He ran it for nearly a decade. “He was an extraordinary mechanic who had an amazing depth of engineering and mechanical knowledge,” said friend and former customer Wade Holland. “I think he really liked working for people and having them leave happy.
Longtime friend Alex Crivelli, who worked for Bud’s in-town competitor, Cheda’s Garage, agreed. “Bud was a very intelligent man,” he said. “He was just a really good person, an honest businessman; he had a lot of integrity.”
After taking over the business, Bud hired two employees, and required and paid for each to attend community college. “He wanted them to be the best,” Skip said.
Charlotte managed the books for the shop until she passed away in 1989. “She was really his rock,” Skip said. “Without her I don’t think he would have made it so long. He was totally different after marrying her. You never saw that side of Bud, the one that loved her like he did.”
Bud kept up the business for six years before retiring to focus on a life filled with golf, family and shopping in bulk. “For a single guy he must have gone to Costco at least once a week,” Alex said. “I think he loved the entertainment of it. His freezer probably had enough food to stock his entire family for a year.”
Excluding a persnickety affection for peanut butter cookies, Bud was a savory man at heart and retained an adventurous gustatory palate throughout his life. “One of his favorite meals—he called it dessert—was actually noodles with beef gravy,” Alysse said. “And he always used to put hot peas on his salad, on top of the dressing.”
Those who knew him well knew of his love of innovation. “He was always on the cutting edge of technology,” Alex said. “He just knew technology and had it down. He had one of the first color televisions, but the reception out here was terrible so he was always coming up with some little invention to increase the reception, always improvising or jury-rigging something.”
This developed into a subsequent weakness for infomercials. “Every infomercial that would come on he would try,” Alysse said. “He was a gadget guy. At Christmas time you would usually find moon socks, or green tea supplements or something along those lines in your stocking.”
One major pet peeve, besides incessant inquiries from tourists on how to reach the Green Bridge, was liberal thinking. “When they brought him into the emergency room after falling a few months ago they asked him how old he was and who the president was,” Alex said. “And Bud just went off. So they knew he had his faculties about him.”
Party alliances aside, Bud was a welcoming soul who made others feel included. When Alysse married into a family with two children from a previous marriage, “he accepted those kids like family,” she said. “There just were no boundaries.” Skip put it simply: “Bud was the rock of this entire family.”
Bud is survived by nieces Melanie Louise MacCubbin Guyer, Tara Lynn Vicknair Lee and Alysse Louise Thomas Holman; nephews Arthur Mark MacCubbin, Raoul Antoine Vicknair Jr. and Sidney Marvin Vicknair; numerous great nieces and nephews; and one godson, Robbie Aguilar.