Kevin Christopher Fitzgerald's life ended Saturday night on the cold asphalt of Highway 101 in Santa Rosa when the 57-year-old homeless man walked into the path of a southbound pickup truck.
The driver, traveling at 65 mph, swerved and tried to brake, but had no chance to miss Fitzgerald, the CHP said. The man had lived on the streets and been to local hospitals so often in the last 25 years that paramedics immediately recognized him.
Fitzgerald, the fifth homeless pedestrian killed by a vehicle this year in Santa Rosa, carried a secret that stunned most people who'd known the gentle, soft spoken man who suffered from mental illness all his adult life.
Surviving lately on about $600 a month in disability payments, Fitzgerald sent $56 a month to an international charity to support two 9-year-old children in the west African nation of Senegal.
"For a lot of people that's a drop in the bucket," said his older sister, Kathleen Fitzgerald-Orr of Santa Rosa. "It's like giving up a latte a day."
But for a man on the edge like Kevin Fitzgerald, donating nearly 10 percent of his income sometimes meant he had to "do without," his sister said.
"That's remarkable," said Nick Baker, program manager at Catholic Charities' Homeless Services Center, who knew Fitzgerald. "I've never heard of that before."
Fitzgerald, who started making the payments to ChildFund International in March 2009, was one of the 250,000 people whose donations support 13.5 million children in 31 nations.
"An amazing story," said Cynthia Price of ChildFund. "Someone who had so little chose to give to children halfway around the world."
Fitzgerald's funding provided three meals a day to an unrelated pair of Senegalese children, Waly and Bintou, who live in rural areas where families typically make $800 a year, Price said.
For her brother, who never married or had children, the donations were a chance "to give to someone who had less than him," Fitzgerald-Orr said. "It was his one claim to doing something he felt was important."
Fitzgerald came by his charitable nature as a lifelong Roman Catholic, educated in parochial schools in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, who attended Mass at St. Rose Church in Santa Rosa when he was able.
"He didn't have a mean bone in his body," Fitzgerald-Orr said.
Fitzgerald was badly injured in an assault on the street, and Fitzgerald-Orr said she and her sisters -- Linda Trowbridge of Santa Rosa and Becky Kough of Eureka -- feared for his safety.
Whenever Fitzgerald was arrested and jailed, they were relieved to know that he was temporarily in a safe place.
Baker said he knew Fitzgerald as one of chronically homeless men who'd drop by the homeless center on Morgan Street to get out of the cold, get a cup of coffee or sign up for a night at Sam Jones Hall, a shelter in southwest Santa Rosa.
"There was something very likeable about him," Baker said. "He was clean-shaven most of the time I saw him. You wouldn't really know he was homeless."
Fitzgerald knew plenty of hardships, but never displayed the bravado common among street people as a survival tactic, Baker said.
"He was such a gentle soul," Baker said. "I can't see him trying to hurt anyone else or himself."