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When pedestrians would stop on a downtown Santa Rosa sidewalk to greet foot-beat police officer Ray Radley, it was best if they had some time to spare.

Radley, a philosophical and gregarious man who researched and collected dolls in his free time and most valued law enforcement for the opportunities it creates for meaningful interaction with people, died Thursday.

The barrel-chested old-school former cop was 74.

"He was a great PR guy," said retired police commander Rodney Sverko, who served for decades with Radley on the Santa Rosa force. "And he was big enough to handle almost anything."

Radley had been struggling with cancer and heart disease when he collapsed at his longtime Santa Rosa home.

He was born in Oakland in 1939 and came with his family to the Hessel area south of Sebastopol as a boy. A few years later his late father, who worked in construction with the international firm of Morrison-Knudsen Bechtel, moved the family to Morocco.

Young Ray Radley created a radio station there, developed an interest in diverse cultures and completed his high-school studies at age 16. He returned to the Bay Area and was accepted at UC Berkeley, but a counselor suggested that because he was still so young he enroll instead at Santa Rosa Junior College.

He did. A fellow student, the former Judi Harper, whose family had lived in Sonoma County for generations, will never forget the moment that he approached her in campus hangout called The Coop.

"This guy wearing a green Tyrolean with a red ostrich feather walked up to me and said, 'Lady, I don't know who are, but I'm going to marry you'."

That was 1958. They married in 1962.

Well-read and worldly, young Ray Radley jumped at the chance to play a role in Sonoma County's first coffeehouse in 1959.

It was called Bottega and was located on Santa Rosa Avenue, just south of Courthouse Square. Radley made the coffee and savored the conversation, folk music, poetry and company of patrons and owners Gus Guichard and Ted Binkley.

In 1963, Radley took a job with Pacific Indemnity Insurance in San Francisco. Married then, he was commuting when his success at talking down a seriously agitated neighbor impressed Santa Rosa's police chief, Melvin "Dutch" Flohr.

Soon, Radley was in uniform. He worked patrol and investigations, but was most in his element when walking downtown and talking with folks.

"He always had a smile on his face and he loved people," said retired Police Chief Sal Rosano. "He was what the old-time cop was, and what people remembered the old-time cop to be."

Radley was on the force 27 years when he retired in 1992. Retirement allowed him more time to pursue several passions, among them collecting, researching and writing about classic dolls.

"We have a combined collection of over 2,000 dolls in the house," Judi Radley said.

Her husband was a leader of the Pollyanna Doll Club of California and the United Federation of Doll Clubs, and a published authority on dolls that included those handmade by clients of the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.

Radley also savored baseball, his family and his hats.

In addition to his wife in Santa Rosa, he is survived by daughter Lisa Franchetti of Windsor, son BW Radley of Garden Grove and two grandsons.

A memorial service is at 2p.m. Thursday at Daniels Chapel of the Roses.