December 15, 2004
Virginia Marie Sortor Wyatt, a lifelong traveler, died Dec. 6, 2004 at her Petaluma home.
Born Jan. 11, 1926 in Memphis, Texas during a family vacation, she continued traveling her entire life -- taking a trip to a Texas quilt show the month before her death.
She met her husband, Harold Wyatt, when she was 17, at Baccala's Grocery Store in Petaluma and together they had two daughters. After the girls graduated from high school, Mrs. Wyatt returned to college and received her teaching degree, which allowed her to share two of her greatest interests: music and American history. She called herself "the luckiest teacher in the world," her family said, "as she was able to sing all day long and travel with her students to various historical sites, allowing them to learn about U.S. history firsthand."
She retired from Petaluma Junior High School in 1985, but not from learning, as she enrolled in a number of language courses. Her talent for languages made her frequent travels even more interesting and enjoyable, her family recalled.
Mrs. Wyatt also played the flute in the New Horizons Band.
"If there is one thing to say about the life of Virginia Wyatt, it is that she had fun," her family said.
She is survived by her husband of 57 years, Harold Wyatt, and daughters Janice Cunningham and Patricia Sullivan, all of Petaluma; sister Bertha Searle of Riverside; four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
At Mrs. Wyatt's request, no services will be held. Interment will be at Cypress Hill Memorial Park. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 745 N. Webster St., Petaluma, 94952. Arrangements were by Parent-Sorensen Mortuary and Crematory.
Robert Edwin Duffy passed away Friday, April 20, 2001 at Petaluma Valley Hospital in Petaluma, Calif. Beloved husband, of 22 years, of the late Laurinda Medieros, who preceded him in death in 1988. Loving sister of Donna Mae Pritchard of Santa Rosa. Loving step-father of Ron Fossell of Sebastopol, Genie Robb of Oklahoma City, Kin Sanford of Santa Rosa and Cary Sanford of Petaluma. He is also survived by several grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Mr. Duffy was a 76 year resident of Petaluma. He worked as a mechanic for Sanderson Ford in Petaluma for 47 years.
A native of Alberta, Canada. Aged 79 years.
Friends are invited to attend Graveside Services Wednesday (today), April 25, 2001, at 1:30 PM, at Cypress Hill Memorial Park, 430 Magnolia Ave., Petaluma. Friends called for visitation Wednesday (today) after 9:30 AM at the ADOBE CREEK FUNERAL HOME, 331 Lakeville St., Petaluma, Calif. CHEDA & LYONS - 707-789-9000
November 24, 2004
School bus driver
Funeral services were held earlier this week for Petaluma resident Della Weise, who died at home Nov. 19, 2004.
Born April 21, 1921 in Toledo, Ohio, for 22 years Mrs. Weise drove a school bus for Marin County Schools special education.
She moved to Petaluma in 1984, after living in Novato 25 years.
Mrs. Weise was also a member of the altar guild of St. John's Episcopal Church.
She is survived by her husband of 36 years, Hans Weise; children Eric Turner of Novato, Sherry Dell Marks of Petaluma, Catherine Ridling of Montgomery, Ala; three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Contributions in Mrs. Weise's memory may be made to Hospice of Petaluma, 416 Payran St., Petaluma, 94952; St. John's Episcopal Church, 40 Fifth St., Petaluma, 94952; or the Salvation Army, 721 S. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, 94954.
Interment was at Valley Memorial Park in Novato.
Arrangements were by Parent-Sorensen Mortuary and Crematory.
September 24, 2003
Former school superintendent
Dwight Ellsworth Twist, who served as city superintendent of schools in Petaluma from 1952 to 1958 died in Southern California Sept. 4, 2003.
During his six years in Petaluma, he was active in the San Francisco Bay Area Curriculum Council, the California School Supervisors Association, the California Association of School Administrators, the California Teachers Association, the California School Boards Association and the California Congress of Parents and Teachers. He also was a member of the Petaluma Rotary Club.
Dr. Twist's wife, Mary Val, wrote that he "often spoke fondly of his six years in Petaluma. Helen Putnam was a close friend. I know he considered his experience there among the happiest and most productive of his long career in education."
In addition to his wife, Dr. Twist is survived by his son, Charles Russell Twist of Washington D.C., daughter Barbara Elizabeth Williams of Carmel, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned in San Diego, his home for 41 years. The service takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church, 2128 Chatsworth Blvd., San Diego, Calif. 92107.
Dr. Twist considered Redlands, Calif., where he lived from junior high through university, to be his home town, and wished to be buried there. An interment service was held at Redlands' Hillside Memorial Park, on Sept. 9.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Class of 1937 Scholarship Endowment, University of Redlands, c/o Ron Stephany, P.O. Box 3030, Redlands, Calif. 92373, or to the Point Loma Presbyterian Church.
July 23, 2003
Musician, church woman
Leona Suden, a dedicated member of the Petaluma community for most of her life and a locally famous walker, died July 16, 2003, in Ukiah, at the age of 91.
She was born Sept. 4, 1911 into a third-generation California family. Her ancestors arrived on the Mayflower and her great-grandfather continued the family's traveling tradition when he came to California during the Gold Rush.
Raised in Petaluma, she met her first husband, Ralph Millet, while playing the piano for a musical he was in. They were married in the family home, 316 Bodega Ave., that had been built for her parents when they were married.
The couple lived in Petaluma for a number of years before moving to Sacramento during World War II. After Ralph's death in 1945, Mrs. Suden returned to Petaluma to raise her four children.
In 1951, she married John Suden, whom she met through her church. The marriage lasted until his death in 1987.
Her church, St. John's Lutheran, was a central part of her life. From being a convention delegate to fundraising, running the Ladies Aid to teaching Sunday School, Mrs. Suden was always there. She made weekly visits to sick and elderly shut-ins, even into her 80s.
A music lover since she was a child, Mrs. Suden played piano, flute and organ. She was the church organist for 45 years, plus singing in -- and occasionally directing -- the choir. She was also a 40-year member of the Sonoma County Chorus.
Active as a Camp Fire leader and Cub Scout Den mother, Mrs. Suden taught crafts, loved to crochet and was an excellent seamstress, making many of her children's clothes.
After her children grew up, Mrs. Suden cared for foster children and, as time permitted, was a nurse-helper for new mothers.
She was also a dedicated walker, taking daily four-mile walks around town. Mrs. Suden was proud of being featured, as a walker, in Bill Soberanes' column. Her walks continued until 2000, when she moved to Ukiah to be closer to her daughters.
She is survived by her sons, Ken Millet of Citrus Heights and Don Millet of Los Altos; and daughters Barbara Webster and Myrna Hurst of Ukiah; stepdaughters Joann Willm and Colleen Foust and foster daughter Chela Pacheco; four grandchildren; 11 step-grandchildren; four great-grandchildren and many step-great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her brother, Charles Wallace.
A memorial service and reception will be held at 1 p.m. July 26 at St. John's Lutheran Church, 455 McNear Ave.
Donations in Mrs. Suden's name may be made to the church.
Arrangements were made through Cypress Hills Memorial Park.
Virginia Lee Strassner
June 9, 2004
Virginia Lee Strassner of Modesto, a resident of Petaluma for over three decades, died June 1, 2004 at the age of 84.
Born in Missouri in 1919, Mrs. Strassner lived in Petaluma from 1970 to 2003.
Private interment will be at Cypress Hill Memorial Park. Arrangements were by Frisbie-Warren and Carroll Mortuary, 809 N. California St., Stockton, 95202.
Contributions in Mrs. Strassner's name may be made to the American Cancer Society Modesto Field Office, 1604 Ford Ave., Modesto, 95350.
Judy Kay Stedman
June 4, 2003
Judy Kay Stedman, an English teacher at the Petaluma campus of Santa Rosa Junior College and a beloved member of the Petaluma community, died in her home Thursday, May 22, 2003.
Ms. Stedman loved her students, friends, family and life. Over and over again, her students said of her, "She helped us to turn our lives around. We will miss her."
She was a graduate of Hastings Law School and also received a master's degree from San Francisco State University. She was also a poet, part of the Sonoma County Writers' Circle where she served on the Sonoma County Poet Laureate Committee. She was assistant director of the annual Petaluma Poetry Walk, and a member of "Girl-by-Girl" a Sonoma County organization for underprivileged young women.
Although suffering from the effects of polio and scoliosis, Ms. Stedman never tired of helping others and bringing joy and laughter. Her favorite pastime was watching movies, especially comedies. Watching a movie in her honor would please her, friends said, and pay homage to her life.
Ms. Stedman is survived by her sister, Rita in Illinois, and four nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 4 in Mahoney Library on the SRJC Petaluma campus, 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway.
Esther L. Soring
March 16, 2005
WW II aircraft factory worker
Esther Louise Soring died March 10, 2005, at the age of 84.
One of nine children, Mrs. Soring was born July 17, 1920, to Swedish dairy farmers in Michigan. As a young woman she moved to Ann Arbor with a sister and friends to work in an aircraft factory. She was proud to contribute to the effort that won World War II.
She married her childhood friend, Clarence Soring, in 1945. They moved to California where they raised three children and Mrs. Soring worked tirelessly for a number of organizations, including the Petaluma Museum. After Mr. Soring died in 1977 she continued to manage his business, Petaluma Clinical Laboratory.
At home Mrs. Soring enjoyed gardening, sewing, painting, playing cards, dancing, reading and cooking. Her family and friends valued her non-judgmental support.
She is survived by her sons Dan and Dale and daughter Karen; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; a sister, Rey Faline; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Graveside services were held Tuesday at Cypress Hill Memorial Park. A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. today, March 16, at the United Church of Christ, 825 Middlefield Drive, in Petaluma. Memorials to the United Church of Christ are preferred.
September 24, 2003
Manley Colmand Smith, a 60-year resident of Petaluma, died at home Sept. 20, 2003, at the age of 81.
Mr. Smith was born and raised in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, then moved to Sonora, Calif., and graduated from high school in 1942. A World War II veteran, he served primarily in the Pacific Theater and was the recipient of the World War II Victory Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal and the American Campaign Medal.
He met his wife, Lavon, through her brother Norman, and the couple courted through the mail, finally marrying in September, 1946.
After the war, Mr. Smith ran his own landscaping business in Sonoma County. He was also a proud member and past Commander of American Legion Post 28, and a past Chef de Gare of the 40/8 organization.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Smith is survived by his children, Raymond Smith and Lanora Dunlap, grandson Eric Smith, and brothers George Deckert and Clifford Smith. He was predeceased by his brother, Melford Smith.
Visitation takes place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Parent-Sorensen Mortuary, Magnolia Avenue and Keokuk Street. Funeral services will be held at 9 a.m. the following day, Sept. 25, also at the mortuary. Burial will be in Cypress Hill Memorial Park.
Donations in Mr. Smith's name may be made to Hospice of Petaluma, 416 Payran St., Petaluma 94952, or to the American Legion, Petaluma Post 28, P.O. Box 618, Petaluma 94954-0618.
Poet Eugene Ruggles mourned
Petaluma literary figure and activist dies at 68; memorial planned Saturday
June 9, 2004
Eugene Ruggles, a Petaluma poet nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, died June 3, 2004, at Hotel Petaluma, his home for the past 15 years. Mr. Ruggles was 68.
"Gene loved Petalumans very much and his heart was open to the potential of greater community," said Carl Macki, a friend of Ruggles and an organizer of local poetry events. "That's what he strived for -- a community free of racism and hatred, and to protect the stability of the poorest and those most damaged by the ravages of the economy and other cultural ills.
"He also wanted to extend greater intellectual opportunity to the youth of Petaluma," said Macki.
Don Emblen, former poet laureate of Sonoma County, was deeply saddened by his friend's death. "We started off with distinct differences," Emblen said, "but found we were really quite close. He was a wonderful talent, and his dedication to all kinds of attempts to achieve justice for various people was inspiring."
Born in Michigan, Ruggles and his wife moved to San Francisco in the early '60s. The city appealed to him, and he became active organizing poetry benefits for a number of causes: Native Americans, children, Amnesty International, flood victims, among others.
A recent article on Ruggles in the San Francisco Chronicle quoted his friend, City Lights Bookstore owner and former San Francisco poet laureate Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who spoke of Ruggles' empathy for the "downtrodden and the down-and-out."
Ruggles' poetry benefits were a far cry from the pedantic or boring: what he created, friends said, were large, colorful happenings that attracted hundreds. His readers were among the best: Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Kaye Boyle, Jack Hirschman, Muriel Rukeyser.
A few years ago, he helped organize a poetry benefit for the Phoenix Theater, featuring Ferlinghetti.
Aside from a five-year stint in the Merchant Marine, Ruggles earned his living at odd jobs, and from grants for his writing. For a number of years, he had suffered from hip degeneration and last year had open heart surgery.
Shortly before his death, he had been faced with eviction, his fixed disability income not enough to meet the rent. Friends, and the Committee on the Shelterless (COTS), had been able to find him another apartment downtown.
Michelle Baynes of COTS, who helped find the new home, said the poet was elated by the number of people who had come to his assistance and support.
"I adored him," Baynes said. "The other day, when he called to tell me how happy he was, he said, 'Michelle, let's go dancing. You can twirl me around the dance floor in my wheelchair.'"
Geri Digiorno, Petaluma poet and organizer of the Petaluma Poetry Walk, said Ruggles was a wonderful poet, and really supportive. "When he came to hear me read, he told me one of my poems was wonderful but said I was throwing away my best line. 'The last line is the most important,' he said, 'you don't want to throw it away.'"
Digiorno said Ruggles was a well-loved and well-respected poet. "It was wonderful that we had him here in Petaluma. He belonged here."
Last Sunday, she said, an impromptu reading of some of Ruggles' poems took place in the museum's garden court, "a nice tribute to him."
Fellow poet Merybehn Peller was one of the readers. She said it was especially meaningful to read Ruggles' poems under the trees behind the museum. "He loved trees very much, and loved poetry very much.
"Aside from being a great writer, and a great writer of poetry, he was deeply immersed in the essence of poetry and the great poets through the ages. I think he'll live on in poetry and in the word."
"His work will pass on into the American canon," Macki said, "especially his earlier work, Lifeguard in the Snow [for which he received a Pulitzer Prize nomination]. His brother was looking forward to editing his next book, tentatively titled Water and Women. It will really surprise people with his sense of rage against injustice."
A celebration of Ruggles' life will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Phoenix Theater, 201 Washington St. Poets with speak and read, and there will be a time to share thoughts, memories and poems.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Eugene Ruggles Fund through Exchange Bank, for the education of Ruggles' grandchildren.