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Asher Vander Vennet turns 2 days old Sunday. Let's see if he doesn't say one day that he feels lucky to have born on Friday the 13th in the parking lot of Kaiser's Santa Rosa hospital.

His mother, Julia, woke his dad, Tim, at their home in Petaluma at about 10 p.m. Thursday to say she was having contractions, serious ones.

Tim Vander Vennet, a division manager at a software company, quickly phoned his folks and asked them to come over and stay with his and Julia's 2-1/2-year-old daughter, Edin.

They arrived and Tim helped Julia into his car and headed for Santa Rosa.

By then it was about 11:30 and Julia's contractions were intensifying. Tim said he'd have liked to go 80 mph but there was a sheriff's deputy ahead of him and he didn't want to risk the delay of being pulled over, so he kept his speed at 65.

Somewhere along Highway 101, Julia, the Denmark-born head psychologist at Redwood High School in Larkspur, announced, "I really feel like this baby is coming!"

At about Todd Road, she told Tim the baby was crowning. Just as he exited at Bicentennial, within view of Kaiser, Julia gasped and reached down.

Tim had just pulled into the parking lot when Julia rocked back and lifted her arms.

"All of a sudden, she's holding our child and I said, 'Oh, my God!' She delivered him herself in the front seat of my Audi."

It was just then just after midnight on Friday the 13th. Tim spotted a deputy sheriff and some other people near the entrance to the emergency room and he pulled up and shouted to them. "Help!"

Quickly, a team of Kaiser staffers arrived at the car, snipped the cord and whisked mother and son up to Labor and Delivery.

Both were fine. Tim already was feeling hugely grateful to the Kaiser staffers when he scooted back down to the parking lot to retrieve something.

This was definitely his lucky day. Somebody'd done a fine job cleaning up his Audi.

ASHES TO ASHES: Soon it will be a year since burglars broke Ryan Downing's heart and boggled his mind by stealing from his Larkfield garage the pine box containing his late sister's ashes. He'd placed the box there just the day before.

The thieves also made off with Downing's drum set, some tools and a remote-control car. But all he really cared about, the only thing he couldn't replace, was the remains of Karen Wagner, who died in 1997.

Through the past 11 months, Downing admits, "I lost all my hope."

Then, just the other day, his phone rang. It was good news.

A woman had dropped off the box of ashes at a church in Ukiah. Noticing a label on the bottom that listed Wagner's name and that of Healdsburg's former Fred Young & Co. mortuary, someone at the church contacted Fred Young Funeral in Cloverdale.

A staffer there went to the trouble to locate records from Karen Wagner's final arrangements, and came upon a name and phone number of a brother-in-law in Healdsburg. The Fred Young Funeral employee phoned him, and he in turn phoned Ryan Downing.

"I'm just trying not to cry," Downing said, having had his sister's ashes, and his faith in humanity, restored.

IT'S JUST SUCH A MIRACLE that Roy Germone, who's 94 and a retired Santa Rosa pharmacist, is hoping for.

Last Saturday, the day California Chrome ran in the Belmont Stakes, Roy took advantage of a rare opportunity to leave the house and he drove to the Jockey Club at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Day in and day out, he takes care of the disabled love of his life, Juanita.

When he returned home from the club, he noticed something most upsetting. His wedding ring was missing from his hand.

"I had it on my finger for 72 years," he said. He's lost some weight recently, and he has no idea where he was when the band slipped off his slimmed finger.

"To have somebody find it is darned near impossible," he said. "But we're hoping."

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.)