Richard Gustafson followed a routine until the end.
Just a few hours before he was reported missing last week, the 88-year-old Fircrest man was up to his usual antics — hunting for candy at his old law firm and making friends and former colleagues laugh.
Gustafson often stopped by his former office a couple of times a week, poking around for snacks and telling jokes.
“I’m going to miss his visits to my office,” said John Messina of the University Place law firm Messina Bulzomi Christensen. “He would come by like on a route, just like he would swing by Viafore’s deli in Fircrest. At first he just came by to pick up his mail, but later he would bring in things he found at home from the old days.”
Gustafson died early Wednesday, several hours after driving into the water Tuesday night at the Narrows Marina boat launch, where at least seven people have died over the last two decades in a similar fashion.
He was reported missing around 3 p.m. the day of the accident, after family grew concerned when he didn’t return home as expected.
He is survived by his wife, Sharon, and four adult children. Gustafson’s son, Dick, said Friday that the family requests privacy while they grieve his father’s death.
Others who were close to Gustafson said he was down to earth and sharp, a successful personal injury attorney and a distinguished member of the community.
He kept people laughing and was known for his smiling face and quick wit.
“He was a good mentor to me as a young lawyer,” Messina said.
Messina worked with Gustafson for 25 years. The two saw each other regularly, even after Gustafson retired in the early 1990s.
Another attorney at the firm, John Christensen, said he knew Gustafson well, even though the two never worked together.
He saw Gustafson around 11 a.m. Tuesday.
“He was his usual cheerful self,” Christensen said.
He recalled fondly that Gustafson found vegetables instead of candy on his regular hunt for sweets.
“He said ‘Nope, not interested,’ ” Christensen said, laughing.
He added that the community has lost a gentleman and a family man.
“It’s just a terrible loss,” Christensen said. “He was one of the good guys.”
David Viafore, Fircrest mayor and owner of the namesake deli, said Gustafson didn’t act like a man in his 80s.
“He was in remarkable physical shape for an 88-year-old guy,” he said.
Gustafson stopped by Viafore’s Italian Delicatessen as part of his regular routine, sometimes two to three times a week.
Viafore said he and the deli’s employees were shocked by initial reports of Gustafson’s accident that suggested he might have suffered from diminished mental capacity.
“He was sharp as a tack,” Viafore said, adding that he knew Gustafson like the back of his hand.
Viafore called him a pillar of the community who regularly stopped by to talk politics and every election ballot, issue by issue.
“He was a regular Johnny on the Spot,” Viafore said. “I think the world of the man.”
Messina described his former co-worker as a “real top notch guy,” always advocating for clients.
He said Gustafson would do anything he could to help and was always “very dedicated to the law.”
“We want to remember him as a very friendly guy, with a great sense of humor and a sharp mind,” Messina said.