Ken Hayes was a soft-spoken, unfailingly polite man with an eye for design and a devotion to his community remembered by everyone he met.
Hayes, 82, a lifelong Mercedian, former planning commissioner and city councilman, died Saturday at his home. Memorial services tentatively are scheduled for Jan. 30 in Merced.
Kenra Bragonier served with Hayes on the Merced Planning Commission. He remembers they didn't always agree on every decision, but that Hayes always insisted discussions be civil.
"He would thoughtfully listen to everyone," Bragonier said. "He always considered what everyone had to say. He was sincerely a very nice man."
Hayes, a retired architect, building designer, investor and civic leader, served on the Merced Planning Commission from May 1976 to May 1980, filling the unexpired term of Bob Hart. He was commission chairman in 1978-79. He later filled Hart's unexpired term on the Merced City Council from May 11, 1981, until that November. He didn't seek election to the council when his term expired.
Ed Cardoza, a local surveyor and engineer, met Hayes in the mid-1960s and remained friends with him through the years. Cardoza, Hayes, Bill Mutoza and Bob Gilbert owned a two-story office building at West 18th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way for several years.
Hayes not only co-owned the 1978-vintage building, he designed it. During his career, he worked for nine years with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. drawing plans for a variety of projects, opened his own architectural office and later worked as an architectural designer for DuPertuis and Hesse and Jorgenson-Tolladay design firms here.
"I liked his ideas about planning," Cardoza said. "He was easy to get along with. He was an awesome person and such a nice man. I like to argue, but Ken was a soft-spoken man and I never remember him arguing."
Gilbert said there is no adjective too good to attribute to Hayes, whom he considered a fine gentleman and close friend.
Robert J. Lorenzi also served on the planning commission with Hayes and praised his contributions to the community.
"He was just a really good, caring guy," Lorenzi said. "He loved Merced and wanted to do what was right for our community."
Born in Merced, Hayes graduated from Merced High School in 1945 and served as quarterback of the football team and a pitcher on the school's baseball team. He served in the U.S. Army at Camp Beale in Marysville, then went to work for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. He lived briefly in San Jose and worked five years for Walter Wagner and Partners in Fresno before returning to Merced.
He operated his own architectural firm until 1972 when he became a designer for DuPertuis and Hesse and Jorgensen-Tolladay firms. In 1979 he established Ken Hayes Building Designs and semiretired in 1992.
His former boss, Henry DuPertuis, believes Hayes had a hand in designing many of Merced's schools. An experienced draftsman and registered building designer, DuPertuis recalls Hayes was a lead person in his office and became an architect just after leaving his firm.
"He was a fine gentleman," DuPertuis said.
Longtime friend and former Mercedian Wayne Wallace of Brownfield, Texas, said Hayes loved Merced and wouldn't let anyone say anything bad about the town. Wallace said Hayes was well-organized and believed in honesty.
Besides the council and planning commission, Hayes served on the city Housing Board of Appeals, Design Review Commission and Historic Preservation Committee.
In a May 1, 1997, proclamation honoring Hayes, former state Sen. Dick Monteith, R-Modesto, commended him for his long and distinguished record of professional service and outstanding display of civic leadership.
"As a result of his tireless hard work and unwavering commitment, Ken Hayes has succeeded in compiling an impressive record of career and civic achievements, a record that has earned him the admiration and respect of those persons who have had the privilege of associating with him," Monteith wrote.
Hayes also was a member of the downtown Project Area Committee, director of the Symphony League, a member of the Merced Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club and the Merced Union High School District Foundation.
Bill Mutoza of Merced also was a part-owner of that downtown building and said Hayes was fun and easy to talk to.
Former Merced City Manager Allan R. Schell said Hayes was "a good guy, supportive of everybody and a positive influence."
Private graveside services will be held. A time and location haven't yet been set for Hayes' memorial. He is survived by a daughter, Lynn Gaede of North Fork; a son, Ron Hayes of Merced; and his brother, Ray "Slug" Hayes of Merced.