Gene Requa, 94, of Del Mar, a retired Studebaker engineer, died sometime between the evening of July 31 and Aug. 1.
Anyone in Del Mar who walked down "Little Orphan Alley" between Seventh and Eighth streets would have seen a Requa-designed Studebaker, "The Hawk." He was well known in the community for his art, said Heather Glenn, who last saw Requa on July 31.
His great-uncle was Richard Requa, a famous early San Diego architect who designed buildings in Balboa Park, including the one now inhabited by the Natural History Museum.
A friend of Gene Requa's, Scot Morris, said everyone who walked the cliffs in Del Mar between the lifeguard tower and Torrey Pines beach knew him.
"Nobody who met him didn't love Gene," said Morris.
Morris said Requa was distinctive and was known for the hand-painted, drawstring, line-dried pants he always wore.
Neighbors of Requa, Mimi and Dennis Mulligan, said he was a remarkable character. "He was a legend in Del Mar," said Mimi Mulligan. "He built and lived in the same home on 140 7th St. since 1953."
"He was a great guy," said Dennis Mulligan. "He took in older dogs that people were abandoning, and for years his home was a refuge for troubled teens. They used to hang out at his place and camp out in his backyard."
Dennis Mulligan said Requa painted, drew, designed and played music.
"He was all-around pretty talented," he said.
Mulligan added that Requa was a strict vegetarian who was very thin but also very strong.
"He lived on brown rice," he said. "He was doing pull-ups when he was in his 90s.
Mulligan also said that Requa always drove Studebakers and fixed them himself, and that he was an inspiration to youths who later went on to become auto mechanics.
He reportedly had no living family on the West Coast and is survived only by a niece who lives in the East.