The Sunday afternoon of Jan. 27, folks will gather at the county fairgrounds in Santa Rosa to eat pasta, enjoy some music and raise money for the two Elsie Allen High cousins/cheerleaders injured in that tragic highway crash in Mexico.

Key players in the benefit event are county Supervisor Efren Carrillo and "Pasta King" Art Ibleto, who can't stop himself from offering to get cooking when someone in the community needs help.

Cristina Garcia Torres, 16, and Alexis Vargas, 17, do.

Cristina, whose mother died in the Dec. 23 crash, is hospitalized in San Antonio, Texas, with a broken pelvis. Alexis is in a hospital in Saltillo, Mexico, and has undergone surgeries to repair injuries to a leg and to her face.

Fellow Elsie cheerleaders are collecting money to help pay their medical bills. Because Alexis has been active in the campus Interact Club, a program of Rotary, many Rotary clubs and members have pledged donations.

The Santa Rosa Sunrise Rotary Club, the Elsie Allen club sponsor, will match the donations of its members, dollar for dollar. One Sunriser has already pledged $1,000.

Carrillo said the Jan. 27 benefit and pasta feast will happen either in Finley Hall or the Grace Pavilion.

THE LIVES HE SAVED are a consolation to those who loved Bill Foster, the Petaluma-reared veteran ski patroller who died Christmas Eve in an avalanche at Alpine Meadows.

A sister, Sebastopol's Lisa Dawson, said it also helps knowing that he was doing what he loved. He moved to snowy Truckee and became a ski-patrol member shortly after his studies at both St. Vincent's and Petaluma High.

"During storms is when we work, when we earn our money," he told the PD in 1998. "People think we've got it great when they see us out skiing on a nice spring day. But they don't see us when we're soaked to the skin in the rain, or trying to stand on the ridge when it's blowing 60 mph."

His sister in Sebastopol said he'd return to Sonoma County once in awhile. But, she said, "He thought it was very crazy and busy down here" and he'd itch to get back up into his mountains.

JEFF KAN LEE had several nice photographs in Sunday's PD, including one on Page 1 of Lynn Woolsey from the day she was elected to Congress in long-ago 1992.

Most notable about Jeff's photos in the Sunday paper is that they look to be his last. Forty-four years after he became a staff photographer with a curious mind, quick finger and amiable manner, he has retired as the PD's longest-tenured employee.

Many of us, inside the PD and out, will forever remember Jeff Lee moments. A potent one for me happened when he and I were dispatched in early 1983 to Point Arena after freak waves smashed the Mendocino Coast hamlet's cove and Jeff set a new speed record on slick, serpentine Highway 1.

Ever since surviving that drive from Jenner to Point Arena and back with him, I have laughed in the face of terror. So thanks, Jeff. It's been quite a ride.

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here