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In Robin Williams' Tiburon neighborhood, grief and fond memories

Updated 10:16 am, Tuesday, August 12, 2014

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  • Two area residents stand near the home of Robin Williams in Tiburon, Calif. on Monday, August 11, 2014. Photo: Scott Strazzante, The Chronicle
    Two area residents stand near the home of Robin Williams in Tiburon, Calif. on Monday, August 11, 2014. Photo: Scott Strazzante, The Chronicle

 

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(08-11) 20:43 PDT TIBURON -- Dozens of neighbors and well-wishers stood outside Robin Williams' Tiburon home late Monday after the beloved comedian and actor was pronounced dead of an apparent suicide. Many were in disbelief.

"I still don't believe it's real," said Megan Thorpe, a 25-year-old Novato resident who used to nanny for a neighbor down the street. "But we're here. It has to be."

Thorpe, like many others, brought flowers to lay at Williams' front fence.

Dozens of neighbors and fans - along with dozens more reporters and photographers - stood hushed outside the large, Spanish-style home where authorities had found Williams' body hours earlier, after a call from family members.

Thorpe said that when she moved to the Bay Area, she visited the San Francisco home featured in "Mrs. Doubtfire," the 1993 film in which Williams played a father who disguises himself as a nanny in order to spend time with his kids after a bitter divorce.

"It's just so sad," Thorpe said. "I love Robin Williams."

Cheryl Lipski, 55, of Corte Madera, said the connection between Williams and the Bay Area was strong.

"If you're from here, you're sad," she said. "I expected to see him around for a number of years. I expected him to be part of the Bay Area for much longer."

Lipski recalled bringing her young son trick-or-treating to Williams' home when he lived in Sea Cliff in San Francisco. Even though he wasn't home, Williams made sure someone was there to hand out glow sticks.

Another time, Lipski said she was at a comedy club on Clement Street in San Francisco when the lights went out.

"When they came back on, he was there," she said, smiling. "It was when he was doing Popeye and his arms were all buff. It was just so cool."

She said that even though she never knew Williams personally, she felt his loss deeply.

"He was a total, total icon," Lipski said. "To think that you're going to turn on Letterman or Kimmel and you're not going to see him anymore - it's tragic."

Neighbors said the quiet street in Tiburon was a family-oriented and private place that welcomed Williams' presence.

Neighborhood children would see him outside as they rode their bikes down the street, and he was always a friendly figure, they said.

Daniel Jennings, 15, said he lived across the street from Williams for a few years and was friends with his stepson.

He said that whenever he would visit Williams' home, the performer would be welcoming and offer to get the boys something to eat.

Williams' iconic wit would usually also find a way into the conversation, Jennings said.

"His comedy side would just come out," said Jennings, chuckling slightly. "I won't forget that, and I just feel so fortunate that I had the opportunity to know him."

"He really, really tried to be not a celebrity," said neighbor Johanna Dunning, 68. "He tried to just be a human being who lived in this little unincorporated quiet place."

She said she, like other neighbors, was shocked to hear of Williams' death.

"It broke my heart," she said. "He had so many people who loved him."

Vivian Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: vho@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @vivianho