It had to be an astonishing and disturbing sight, there in front of a cancer-care office in Petaluma.

An outraged woman pried at a new, paperboard sign that had been affixed to the free-standing sign that for years has identified the Edwin E. Eubanks Cancer Center, a satellite of Redwood Regional Medical Group.

The woman was Deborah Eubanks, widow of the radiation oncologist whose name had been covered up by the new sign. She admits to the vandalism.

"I was in such a state," she said. And she contends the true affront and true act of sign defacement were committed by the new operator of the previously doctor-owned Redwood Regional.

It was officials of St. Joseph Health who had the Redwood Regional/Eubanks Center sign covered over.

THE ORIGINAL SIGN has been a source of pride and comfort to Eubanks' widow and children since the office was named in tribute to him following his death from cancer in 2007 at age 54.

Deborah Eubanks said one of her and Edwin's two daughters drove by the medical office last week and was shocked. The daughter phoned her mother: "Mummy, Mummy, they have taken Daddy's sign down!"

She said she drove there to see that the dual-sided sign honoring her husband had been covered over, and that one of the two new "St. Joseph Health" signs already had been torn off. Eubanks went at the other one with her fingers, but the thick paper was securely glued to the original sign.

"It was ever so difficult to get off," she said. She returned to her car for a CD, which she used as a blade to attack the adhesive.

She tells of tossing the two signs into a dumpster at the Petaluma Whole Foods.

KATY HILLENMEYER, who speaks for St. Joseph Health, said she and the healthcare firm, which also operates Memorial Hospital, deeply regret the upset the placement of the temporary signs caused the Eubanks.

She said that once St. Joseph Health took over operation of all eight North Bay offices of the former Redwood Regional Medical Group, it was required by law to post signs reflecting the change.

Only the Petaluma office bore the name of Edwin Eubanks, long a key and notably caring member of its staff. Hillenmeyer said the new signage "was temporary by design, and does not diminish our respect for Dr. Eubanks, his legacy and his family."

She vowed the company remains committed "to honoring Dr. Eubanks both inside and outside the center."

Deborah Eubanks, having received and dismissed a written apology from St. Joseph COO David Ziolkowski, remains unappeased.

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and