The year unspooled, tying past to present to future. Lives closed — to age or illness, in violence or despair. Death launched a manhunt. It spotlighted an industry's change. It marked a community's pain and a generation's fast vanishing. It gave notice that U.S. wars go on.
A wine baron died. So did Sonoma County's most generous philanthropist. Dozens of World War II veterans passed on, their era receding yet further.
Billionaire Kendall-Jackson winery founder — and racehorse owner and breeder — Jess Jackson died in April at age 81. He left behind one of the world's largest wine companies, and the industry he helped shape lost a weather-vane.
"Above anything else, we would watch what Jess was doing, because he was always ahead of the curve," said wine business consultant Eileen Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.
Former Press Democrat publisher Evert Person, who gave $40 million to local causes, died in March at age 96, leaving a legacy that stretched from performing arts to hospitals, community centers to museums, higher education to organizations that work with troubled youth.
"For 60-plus years, here was someone who felt that it was a duty and an obligation and a privilege to make sure that your community got better every year," said Andrea Learned, vice president of development at the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Foundation.
At least 60 North Coast World War II veterans died in 2011. One of them was James Harris of Lucerne, who as a teenager in the Navy pulled wounded and dead sailors from Pearl Harbor's oily waters, He died in January, at age 86.
Other ties to the war era ended this year. Yuka Matoba, uprooted with her family from Healdsburg in 1942 and sent to a Colorado internment camp, died in January in Sebastopol at age 106.
For others, death arrived in untimely fashion, surrounded by tragedy and lingering questions.
A civic leader was murdered in the woods. A paralyzed teenager died in a car crash. A politician's husband killed himself. A 10-year-old boy fell to cancer. A 14-year-old girl died at a sleepover.
Fort Bragg Councilman Jere Melo, 69, was gunned down by Aaron Bassler in August as he inspected timberland. After 36 unnerving days at large, Bassler, 35 — who had earlier also killed 45-year-old Matthew Coleman, a land manager — was himself shot dead by SWAT officers who caught up to him on a lonely forest road.
"I've got so many friends in Fort Bragg who are breathing easier. Today's a good day," Melo's son, Greg Melo, said after Bassler's death was announced.
Petaluma teenager Danny Cox chronicled online his treatment and difficulties after he broke his neck in a Lake Tahoe diving accident. He died in October, at 19, when the truck he was driving crashed into a tree near Novato. Authorities said it was suicide; his mother said his broken neck killed him. "Absolutely," she said.
Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane's husband, Peter Kingston, took his own life at his family's Santa Rosa home in January. He was 56.
"I want people to realize that this is a disease," Zane said later, speaking about the depression to which Kingston succumbed. "It's not really a choice. My loving, kind, compassionate husband would not have chosen to hurt me or our family or loved ones. He was not in his right mind."