For years before his death in 2010, the Rev. James E. Coffee was seen often in the company of a gentle giant of a man named Michael Francis.

"He wouldn't go nowhere without me," said the 6-foot-5 and powerfully built Francis, a teacher and counselor.

He found his way to Santa Rosa's multi-cultural Community Baptist Church years ago and came quickly to revere Pastor Coffee, for decades this place's most passionate and loving dismantler of the walls that divide people.

"He was my mentor. I looked up to him," said Francis, 48. The Rev. Coffee could not help but look up to him.

Francis became the pastor's armorbearer: his aide, bodyguard and, in later years, his driver.

Along the way, Francis heard himself called to the ministry. He studied, and now he's an associate minister to Coffee's successor at Community Baptist Church, the Rev. H. Lee Turner.

Francis thinks of Coffee as he researches and writes his occasional sermons, and as he steps up to preach.

Vivian Coffee one day spied one of her late husband's personalized Bibles and she knew where it should rightfully go. She gave it to Francis, assuring him that her late husband would be very proud of him.

"He did a lot for James," Vivian said. "James was like another dad to him. And he was like a son."

Quite a good son.


<strong>TAKE ME OUT:</strong> Of course you miss the Crushers.

It's been only a dozen years since the professional baseball team played its last game at the now defunct Rohnert Park Stadium.

On Saturday, the Redwood Chordsmen barbershop harmony chorus will pay musical tribute to the Crushers with "There Used to Be a Ball Park Here," a pair of shows — 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. — at the Redwood Covenant Church on Sebastopol Road.

A good deal of Crushers memorabilia will be there and so will former owner Bob Fletcher and his wife, Susan.


<strong>KSRO FIRST AIRED</strong> in 1937 and folks hereabout felt lucky to own a basic radio, or to know someone who did. It's mind-blowing where the technology of personal listening has gone since then.

This week, Sonoma County's historic radio station, located virtually forever at 1350 AM, took step forward — it began transmitting also in FM.

To my ear, the signal at 103.5 FM is crisper and bolder.

Michael O'Shea, president of Sonoma Media Group, which runs KSRO, credits the work of owner Lawrence Amaturo and also the kindness of a friendly competitor.

KSRO's expansion to FM was possible in part because Gordon Zlot allowed KSRO to mount its new transmitter on his KZST tower.

Classy act.

<em>Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and</em>