SMITH: The lives Rhiannon lived, saved

If you spot the March 12 issue of Sports Illustrated, grab it.

Near the back is an extraordinary story on Rhiannon Hull, the multi-gifted runner from Healdsburg who drowned off of Costa Rica last fall after a valiant fight to save her 6-year-old son, Julian.

The piece plumbs how deeply Rhiannon loved her two sons and her husband, running and Waldorf-style education and how she struggled to start a kindergarten in a seaside Costa Rican hamlet.

It also tells about the Rhiannon Joy Hull Foundation (rjhf.org) that Norm Hull has created to bolster alternative ed.

Rhiannon, 33, and Julian had been in Costa Rica just six weeks — Norm and second son Gianni were preparing the join them — when a potent current pulled mom and son offshore during a swim Oct. 28. She'd fought for about half an hour to hold Julian up above the surface when two young surfers grabbed the boy, then searched to no avail for her.

"One day nearly three months later, back home in Healdsburg," shares the SI piece, "Norm was in the car with his boys when Julian piped up, &‘I worked really hard to save Mommy.'"

100-PLUS AT 85?: For her 80th birthday five years ago, Ruth Halleck of Sebastopol tumbled out of a plane high above northern Sonoma County, fell like a rock and then rode a tandem parachute back to earth.

To mark her 85th, Ruth will strap into a race car at Infineon on Sunday morning, take a lesson and see what her open-wheel formula car — capable of nearly 200 mph — will do for her.

"I'd like to go faster than 100," said Ruth, a grandmother of 17 whose working days included running a dress shop in Sebastopol and restaurant at the county airport.

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