A man stabbed to death in Palo Alto Friday night by his girlfriend's son has been identified by police and friends as Robert Haggquist of Palo Alto, a retired chemist and "deeply thoughtful," friendly man.
Friends of Van Bragt's mother, Electra "Ellie" Van Bragt, said he had not shown signs of mental distress in the years they had known him, but on Thursday afternoon he exhibited symptoms that clearly indicated something was wrong.
Van Bragt showed up at La Comida, the lunch room at Avenidas, on Thursday afternoon, accompanying his mother, Haggquist and Van Bragt's girlfriend, Sharon. He often joined the couple for lunch when he visited from Auburn, playing trivia games with the couple and their friends, according to Thomas Barry, a family friend.
But on Thursday, Van Bragt would not sit down.
"He just walked around and was agitated. ... He was a completely sick boy. He was obviously overwrought. He was not one you'd go fishing with," Clifford Stock, a friend and lunch mate of the couple, said.
Barry, a retired teacher of European history at Palo Alto High School, said Van Bragt was in his class in 1977.
"He was a good student -- intelligent, polite and courteous. He displayed no problems of any kind in high school," Barry said. He and Van Bragt continued corresponding after the young man graduated from high school. Van Bragt and his brother moved to Auburn to live with their father, whom they greatly admired. The elder Van Bragt died last August.
Haggquist and Electra became a couple five years ago, having met at Avenidas. The two were described as good friends who never hesitated to help others and always looked for ways to do good deeds.
Longtime friend Peter Salo said Haggquist cared for Salo's cat and helped him buy groceries. And the couple helped Barry and his wife, Carol, through difficult times when Barry's son, Tom Jr., died in 2005.
Electra majored in music at Wake Forest, Ill., Salo said. The couple loved movies and music and always listened to classical music while playing Scrabble every afternoon at Avenidas, Salo said. And they loved driving to Carmel just to have lunch, he added.
Friends described Haggquist as a deeply thoughtful man who was friendly and never said an unkind word about anyone. And he was devoted to Electra Van Bragt, Stock said.
"Bob went to Auburn many times to help her with her problems with her boys. Whenever there were house repairs that needed being done, Bob would do them," he said.
He did not elaborate on problems the sons may have had.
Haggquist was from Minnesota. He does not have children or family in the area, according to Salo.
But he loved genealogy and spent many hours at the Church of the Latter Day Saints Family History Library, according to Stock.
"It's a double tragedy. Because Electra Van Bragt has lost her son, Tim, and lost her 5-year devoted friend," Barry said.
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