Longtime Los Altos resident Stephen John Vidovich, founder of De Anza Properties of Sunnyvale, died of an apparent heart attack June 19 as he was driving a tractor on his property in the Cupertino hills, said his son John Vidovich.
Mr. Vidovich was a descendant of one of the pioneer farm families that settled here from Croatia, his son said.
"He was born on a ranch in a farmhouse in Sunnyvale at the corner of Mary and Fremont avenues," said John Vidovich, owner and general partner of De Anza Properties. "He was always a farmer at heart."
Farming was what Mr. Vidovich was doing at the time of his death. The California Highway Patrol was called to his property around 3 p.m., according to Steve Perea, public information officer.
"The accident occurred in an open area," Perea said. "The coroner will decide if it was a medical condition. Mr. Vidovich was injured by the vehicle."
Mr. Vidovich, 81, had a history of heart trouble, according to his son.
"We think his heart failed," John Vidovich said. "It was a very hot day. He was working hard. After he fell from the tractor, he may have been hurt by the fall."
Mr. Vidovich served in the United States Navy during World War II and was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, his son said.
Mr. Vidovich founded De Anza Properties around 1966, eventually creating a successful real estate business developing land into shopping centers, hotels and condominiums.
Rancho Shopping Center, at Foothill Expressway and Springer Road, is one of the properties owned by De Anza.
"He worked his whole life and never retired," John Vidovich said. "He had more energy than I do today."
Mr. Vidovich recently built a house, vineyard and winery in Cupertino, and enjoyed working on the property, his son said.
"He was bigger than life and he was a wonderful father," John Vidovich said. "His biggest love was his family. He was polite to everyone and he was open. He could make friends in five minutes."
Mr. Vidovich is survived by his wife Marilyn, and children, John of Los Altos Hills, Michael and Kathryn of Los Altos and Mary Jane of Los Gatos.
The funeral service was scheduled Tuesday at St Simon's Catholic Church on Grant Road in Los Altos.