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When Don Stranathan opened his heart to Penny Blume, he had a pretty good idea that he would love her forever but they wouldn't be together long.

Don was at home in Santa Rosa and Penny in rural, southeastern New York State when they "met" in fall 2011 on a health-and-wellness website.

Both struggled against advanced-stage lung cancer. Of the two, Penny had the worse diagnosis.

Their initial online exchange turned into a conversation and then a flirtation, despite the fact neither was looking to be in a relationship again. Don was 59 and Penny 49. They'd both been married and each had two grown children; both were fighting for their lives.

They fell in love anyway. The virtual relationship turned real when Penny, long a beloved waitress at the former Blanche's Cafe on Route 17B in Sullivan County, flew to Santa Rosa to really meet Don, then a valued employee of Scott Technology copier repair service.

Since that first face-to-face in January 2012, they've taken turns flying across the country. Don has come to feel at home in Sullivan County and he loved showing Penny his state.

"She had never been to California," he said. "I took her to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, the Mendocino Coast, the desert, Los Angeles. I took her all over the place."

When both were at their respective homes, they kept close by phone as they underwent their treatments.

"We spoke every day for 2-1/2 years," said Don. "We never missed a day."

In recent months, as Penny became seriously debilitated, Don cared for her at his home with the indispensable help of people from Memorial Hospice.

Penny's sons, Eddie Blume and Josh Sprague, were there with her when she died at midday Tuesday. Before she passed, she spoke via Skype with her elderly father in Sullivan County.

Don is now back there, helping to plan the services on Monday. He's honoring Penny's wishes by telling folks that if they're interested they can make a donation donation in her memory to the LUNGevity Foundation.

There surely will be a lot of people at the memorial service. "She literally knew everybody in Sullivan County," Don said.

He's feeling so grateful that he came to know her and love her. This past couple of years the two focused together on living rather than freting so much about dying.

Of course, Don's heart hurts. Even so, he said, "No regrets."

KEN ROSSI LOOKS forward to Tuesday.

Ken is the Piner High alum who lost his vision while young and then his ability to walk, but decided he would press on to live as fully as possible.

He gets around town in his manual wheelchair, cautious but undeterred after nearly being killed when a car stuck him in a Montgomery Drive crosswalk in January 2006.

Just last year he resumed creating art -#8212; dramatic, colorful drawings -#8212; from his memories and imagination. And earlier this month NBC's "Today" aired a feature shot at the Sonoma County Museum on the day Ken demonstrated his technique to enthralled fourth-graders from Windsor.

Tuesday at about 11:30 a.m., the Board of Supervisors will honor Ken with a resolution thanking for demonstrating "how personal determination, aided by the support of friends and family, can build a meaningful, inspiring and fulfilling life."

Art sessions at the county museum, then a feature on national TV and now this. It all has Ken happily boggled.

THE W.O.W. CAFE is an extraordinary place for a weekend brunch, for many reasons. The food's out of this world and the young apprentices who learn life and vocational skills as they prepare and serve it are a joy.

Another distinctive aspect of the Worth Our Weight caf?on Hahman Drive near Montgomery Village has been its pay-what-you-will policy.

Founder/chef Evelyn Cheatham says many patrons have been generous, but too many have short-changed the culinary training program. From now on, there will be a tab. Still, it's such a deal.

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.)