Fausto Vitello, the founding publisher of Thrasher magazine, a monthly must-read for skateboarding enthusiasts, has died. He was 59.
Vitello died Saturday after suffering an apparent heart attack while bike riding with friends in Woodside, Calif.
Vitello and a friend founded Thrasher in 1981, as skateboarding was enjoying a rebirth as a write-your-own-rules street sport. He ran the publication out of an office at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco.
"You don't expect anything like this. He rode his bike like crazy. He seemed to be in good shape," his wife, Gwynn, said by telephone Monday.
Vitello was born in Buenos Aires and moved to San Francisco with his family when he was 9. He was reared in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, and picked up English by listening to San Francisco Giants baseball games on the radio, said his son, Tony.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Vitello attended UC Berkeley before transferring to San Francisco State, where he earned a degree in Spanish.
In the 1970s, he ran a bike shop in Golden Gate Park and was a mechanic for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Vitello also founded the skateboard brands Spitfire Wheels and Hubba Wheels.
When skateboarding dipped in popularity, he fought hard to save it, his son said.
"He was skateboarding's saving grace. When the industry was in the gutter, he gave it mouth-to-mouth," his son said in a statement posted on Thrasher's website.
Vitello also founded the Independent Trucks company, a popular manufacturer of skateboard trucks, or axles.
In addition to his wife and son, Vitello is survived by a daughter, Sally; a sister, Lidia of Chicago; and his mother, Aurora.