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Laurence Dean Rhodes, Santa Rosa optician and jazz enthusiast, dies at 78

An optician by trade, Laurence Dean Rhodes also was a student of California history, jazz enthusiast, ukulele player, animal lover and an incorrigible romantic who surprised his wife with their Valentine's Day celebration every year.

Rhodes, who was known as Dusty, died of cancer at his Santa Rosa home on Jan. 13. He was 78.

"It was an adventure. Never a dull moment," said his wife, Bonnie Lou Rhodes of Santa Rosa, reflecting on their 55 years of marriage, preceded by a two and a half-year engagement.

Their relationship was auspicious from the start, beginning in July, 1956 with a blind date arranged by a friend when he was in the Air Force and she was a nursing student.

The occasion was a formal dinner-dance at a golf club in Melrose Park, Ill., that concluded with him asking her for a second date days later at a Dixieland jazz concert and dinner.

Bonnie, a proper midwestern girl, said she was taken by the style of a man wearing black and white shoes, something she had never seen before.

She was even more taken by Rhodes' proposal — more like an announcement — on their second date. "I was just kind of flabbergasted," she said.

They were married in April, 1958 and moved to California, as they had agreed, on their first anniversary, settling first in Marin County and moving to Santa Rosa in 1975.

Rhodes, whose parents lived in San Francisco, was born in Seattle because his mother went there to get help from her sisters before moving back to Mill Valley when he was six months old.

Rhodes, whose intellectual passions included the Golden State's human and natural history, was dismayed to have been deprived the status of California native, his wife said.

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