I've learned something more about Vinnie Hase, something important, since that story the other day about his niece finding him in downtown Santa Rosa, embracing him and ending his many years of scraping by on the streets.

Twenty years ago, Vinnie resided in the ranch home on Ludwig Avenue that was his parents' until they were killed by a drunken driver.

A 16-year-old girl sought him out because she knew that driver, a nurse whose life went into a terminal nosedive after the crash.

The teen also had serious trouble of her own: she'd run away from home and she was strung out on drugs. A friend of hers finally told her pleading mother where she was living: in a spare room at Vinnie Hase's ranch.

With hope and dread, the mom knocked on the door. She told me, "The last time I had seen my daughter she weighed barely 90 pounds and in my mind was dying, she looked like walking death.

"When I entered Vinnie's house there I found her, in his kitchen doing dishes, looking as healthy as she had prior to her decline into the grips of addiction."

The mom discovered Vinnie had helped the girl get clean and find work. But not long after, he could not rescue himself from the slide that put him out of the ranch house and onto the streets.

The woman said it made it her heart sing to read that Vinnie's niece found him and took him home to Antioch.

"Thanks to him, I now have a grandson who is amazing and loved so much by all of us, he is 17 years old." She said her daughter's married to a wonderful man, "she owns her own home, drives a BMW and she is a mortgage broker in Sonoma County."

And she might not even be alive, the grateful mom said, but for Vinnie.

EAT A HOSS: Back in August, Norman Amidon found at one of the great, Sunday flea markets outside the Santa Rosa vets building a metal "Bonanza" lunch pail.

Amidon paid $35 for it. He thought he'd send it to a cousin in Finland who schemes to build a kit log house similar to the Ponderosa Ranch home of TV's Cartwrights.

Only the other day Amidon noticed on a side panel, a well-worn label bearing the name "Mike Bagala" and an address on Montgomery Drive.

On a lark, Amidon checked the phonebook and found a Michael Bagala. He phoned.

Bagala, 58, remembered carrying the Ponderosa box to class in the fifth grade at Doyle Park School, in 1965.

It was lovingly filled by his late grandmother, Loretta Bagala, because his mom was out of the picture and his dad, Vince, was on the road — as pro wrestler "The Spoiler."

Amidon offered Bagala his old lunchbox, and he accepted. A happy finish, if not for the Finn.

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