People often say that their loved ones don’t really die, that they live on in our hearts, that their spirits continue to guide us forever. Friends and family of Ken Paul Lozada, who died at the age of 89 last month in Half Moon Bay, aren’t merely mouthing such spirituality expected in grief, they have memories of moments that just won’t perish.
Bill Rivard recalls the first time he met Lozada, in the crystal shop above the restaurant known as Cosmic Charlie’s on Kelly Avenue.
“He knew my name,” Rivard said, even though the two had never met. “He said, ‘Bill, I’m supposed to tell you that you are being honored by the angels today.’ I knew I had to shut up and listen.
“I could tell you things about Ken that would blow your mind,” he told me on Thursday, three weeks to the day after Lozado’s death. “I could make a movie.”
Lozada’s life story, as told in a book titled “The Peaceful Warrior” and by friends, was certainly cinematic. He was born in San Francisco in 1932 to a Chinese mother and a Filipino father and spent his early years in a North Bay orphanage after his father died. Eventually, his mother reclaimed him and they lived with her German-immigrant husband. Ken joined the Navy at 18, during the Korean War.
Afterward, he made a living teaching and selling art, said Rivard, who is part of a group of friends and family who cared for Lozada in his final years.
Lozada is perhaps best known for his ethereal sculptures created from recycled wood. You can still see them just to the north of the Main Street bridge, next to Tom and Pete’s fruit stand. In addition to those, he created drawings of San Francisco’s Victorian mansions. He was a musician as well, organizing drum circles and gracing the stage at Cameron’s Restaurant and Inn with percussion instruments that merely amplified his own distinct heartbeat.
Whatever money he made from his various artistic pursuits was not the point of the exercise. He spoke of his work in a way that probably struck some as obtuse, but there really was no questioning the spirit at the center of his art. Ten years ago, he told the Review’s Stacy Trevenon, “My drawing laid a groundwork for my sculpting. I work with space, not the object itself.”
Lozada survived a terrible car crash. Rivard says it was one of several near-death scrapes that helped shape Lozada’s philosophy. His last years included mundane trips to doctor and dentist offices, but he never seemed entirely contained by failing flesh and bone. He sometimes spoke of past lives, and people told him they remembered him from other trips around the sun.
When a town like ours loses a beloved business it’s unfortunate, but something always seems to fill the void. When civic leaders move away, there might be a hole in the social fabric that requires patching. Usually, when artists die, those who loved and admired them can find some solace in the work that remains as if preserved in amber.
Ken Paul Lozada was more than his work and a unique, irreplaceable thread in the fabric of the coastal community. Fortunately, there are Coastsiders who will always carry a piece of him in their hearts.
— Clay Lambert