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SMITH: He'd have loved this baby, too

Ryan Connolly lived a most passionate, pedal-to-the-metal life, but it didn't last anywhere near long enough for the 2002 Piner High alum to do all he yearned to do.

The decorated Army sergeant had spent less than a month with his baby daughter, he pined for his wife and he ached to get his hands dirty restoring an old Chevy when he was killed, at 24, in Afghanistan in 2008.

The army later named a base in Afghanistan Forward Operating Base Connolly.

And days ago some local car lovers grateful to him sold at auction the tangelo-colored early &‘70s Nova hot rod they'd fastidiously built over several years.

Peggy and Rich Williams of Santa Rosa's huge Peggy Sue's All-American Cruise car show presented $40,000 — the net proceeds of the sale of the Nova — to Connolly's widow, Stefanie, and 5-year-old daughter, Kayla.

The money will go toward Kayla's education and participation in programs for children of fallen soldiers.

Tom Kemper, a vet and car buff in Windsor, initiated the Nova project and many local firms pitched in. DiMatteo's Street Rods alone put in more than 2,000 volunteer hours on the heartfelt project.

Connolly's dad, Jim, treasures the years of memories of the two of them putting wrenches to anything with tires and a motor. He finds it hard to describe how much care and community he saw go into that Nova and much his boy would have loved to take it out for a spin.

BUSINESS CYCLE: Given the rage cycling has become in Sonoma County, you'd think quality bicycles would sell themselves.

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