A retired elementary teacher from Stockton offered to take over a homeless man's financial support of two African children, just part of the response to the weekend news story recounting the generosity of the man who was killed earlier this month.

"It touched my heart," Joanne Minatre said.

Assuming the $56 monthly payment that Kevin Christopher Fitzgerald had made for the Senegalese children "just seemed like the right thing to," said Minatre, a widow who belongs to a Christian church in Stockton.

Fitzgerald, 57, was killed Dec. 17 when he walked into the path of a pickup on Highway 101 near the downtown Santa Rosa exit.

Fitzgerald, who was mentally ill throughout his adult life, had lived on the streets of Santa Rosa for the past 25 years and was well-known by homeless shelter staffers.

His sister, Kathleen Fitzgerald—Orr of Santa Rosa, said her brother, who lived on $600 a month in disability payments, began sending the money — nearly 10 percent of his income — to ChildFund International in March 2009.

His willingness to give touched readers, including Ann Jordan of Santa Rosa who said the story in Sunday's Press Democrat brought tears to her eyes and moved her to contribute to a fund set up by his sisters to continue the monthly payments.

"I was struck by Kevin's generosity and commitment in difficult circumstances," Jordan said. "It made me feel that I should be giving more than I am."

Jordan said she received 23 responses after posting the story on a nationwide news discussion forum.

Reactions varied, she said, from disdain for Fitzgerald's use of hospital emergency rooms at a cost to others, to concern that mentally ill people are not getting help and "instead were starving and ill on the streets."

On Monday, the story of Fitzgerald's giving was the "most read" and "most e-mailed" story on The Press Democrat website.

"It was Christmas and I think it really touched a lot of people," Fitzgerald-Orr said. The volume of sympathetic responses turned her family's tragedy "into something beautiful," she said.

In an online comment, Charlie Metcalf said he also sponsors a child in a third world country, but has "a good job and a nice warm house."

Fitzgerald's gift "causes me to pause and be humble," Metcalf wrote.

The family established a savings account at Redwood Credit Union — number 383078 — to continue Fitzgerald's monthly payments to the charity, which supports 13.5 million children in 31 nations.

Credit union members may contribute to the account via online banking, and others my make a deposit at any Redwood Credit Union office or by mailing a check to Redwood Credit Union, 3033 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa, 95403.

Fitzgerald-Orr said her family is managing the account, and if contributions exceed the level needed to continue her late brother's donation the remainder will be given to ChildFund to use "where it is most needed."