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It was a long, long day for Ralph's widow


You probably don't remember Gail Currier's name but you may recall her worst Sunday morning.

About 5:45 a.m. on Nov. 23, 1980, Gail stepped sleepily from the master bedroom of her mobile home off Santa Rosa's Occidental Road to meet the eyes of a burglar.

She screamed and the man shoved her to the floor. Gail's husband, Ralph, a 47-year-old union glazier, leaped from bed and rushed to her aid. The intruder could have fled but instead he pulled a knife from a belt sheath and stabbed Ralph 17 times.

Ralph died later that morning. A bloody shoe print helped convict a well-known local bad seed, Roger Lee Hill, then 24, of the murder.

Gail moved years ago to Orange County. Though she's 65 now and uses a wheelchair because of a stroke, she flew back north to attend Hill's parole hearing Wednesday at the state prison in Vacaville.

I went, too, because I covered the story almost 25 years ago. As Gail and I waited almost five hours for Hill's parole hearing to begin, she told me, "I want to face him, and I want him to face me."

At the hearing, a matured Hill, who has been praised for his conduct in prison, said he is a different and better person. But if he tried to make himself return Gail's gaze, he failed.

He managed only to snap his head toward her as he said, "I am sorry for what I caused Mrs. Currier."

When it came Gail's turn to speak, she told Hill she forgives him but does not think he's ready to be released. The parole board agreed.

Hill will be back before the board in a year. Gail said as she started out on the long journey home that she'll be back as well.

YANKS IN TUSCANY: Chianti-region tour guide Dario Castagno has a room waiting for him when he comes to America later this month to promote his book, "Too Much Tuscan Sun."

Castagno will be the guest of Jack and Sandy Eitelgeorge of Santa Rosa, who happened upon his book while in Tuscany last summer and decided on a lark to look him up in his village of Vagliagli.

Said Jack, "A ghost town at 1 in the afternoon, the village had but one eating place open, a tiny bar. We struck up a conversation with the only other people there and, of course, one was Dario."

Castagno welcomed the Santa Rosans, then charmed them with tales from his years of giving tours of Tuscany. His book recounts some of the memorable Americans he has served, like the New Yorker who asked where the Tower of Pisa is and the Atlanta woman who wondered why everybody was speaking Italian.

The Eitelgeorges' houseguest will appear at Readers' Books in Sonoma on the evening of March 22.

PEOPLE WHO WEAR BADGES will be pleased to have us civilians gather with them in the parking lot of Santa Rosa Saddlery, on Highway 12 between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, at 6 p.m. March 29.

The occasion: to remember Deputy Sheriff Frank Trejo, a good guy who was watching out for us when he was gunned down at that spot exactly 10 years ago.

NO BUTTS ... The sobriquet sometimes flicked at Santa Rosa Junior College, and probably at all JCs, was never fair or remotely accurate. And if the proposed smoking ban takes hold, SRJC will never more be called a "high school with ashtrays."

THREE SCIENCE TEACHERS at Maria Carrillo High suddenly sport heads as shiny and bald as marbles. It's not a lab experiment, an accident or a coincidence.

Dennis Lang, Pat Ryan and Steve Salkovics shaved their hair and won't grow it back until Dennis' wife, Lincoln School principal Michele Treuscorff, who's in chemotherapy for breast cancer, is able to grow hers back too.

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and csmith@pressdemocrat.com