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Jim Rowe, whose 4-year-old son's death two years ago in a hit-and-run collision helped spark a public campaign against distracted drivers, died Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 53.

Rowe, who was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2010, was in remission when Christopher "Buddy" Rowe was struck and killed while walking with his mother and two sisters — one who was his twin — in a crosswalk on West Ninth Street in August 2011.

"To lose both Christopher and Jim, and to have Christopher be Julia's twin. It's unfathomable," said Jim's wife, Michelle Rowe, of Santa Rosa. "But we did have time to say goodbye on this one."

Jim Rowe had spent his final months continuing to exercise regularly, travel with his family and was in July still riding bikes with his daughters. He was also buying jewelry and writing notes for the events in his family's life he will miss, Michelle Rowe said.

"He took care of us in such a loving way that our grief is huge," she said. "But we also have a different kind of experience of 'Daddy loved us so much.'<TH>"

Born to Jane and Jim Rowe on Aug. 7, 1960, in Stockton, Jim was one of two children. His sister, Susan, died of cancer in 1999.

The Rowe family moved a lot when Jim Rowe was young man before he graduated from Piedmont High School. He attended the University of Southern California and graduated with a degree in communications in 1985.

He joined the family investment banking business in San Francisco but eventually was lured north when the family established Pezzi King Vineyards in Healdsburg in 1992. He would become president of the company, Michelle Rowe said.

"He was very hard working," she said. "He never expected more of others than he expected of himself."

The pair met at a winery event and Michelle was immediately struck by his presence, she said.

"It was that sparkly personality. He was very social and warm, humorous," she said. "And he was handsome as all get out."

The pair were married June 26, 1999.

A deeply religious man, Jim Rowe sought to be a father figure for his two nephews and niece who lost their mother when Rowe's sister Susan died in 1999.

It is that role that Michelle Rowe says will bring her family full circle. Her nephews and niece are close with her young children and can guide them through the loss of a parent, she said.

"That gives my heart a little softening," she said. "To know that they have these amazing (cousins) who have been through this. They can help each other."

In addition to his wife, Michelle, Jim Rowe is survived by daughters, Mimi, 8, and Julia, 6, of Santa Rosa; his father, Jim Rowe of Monterey; and brother Tom Rowe of Pflugerville, Texas.

A visitation will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at Daniels Chapel of the Roses, 1225 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa. A funeral mass will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday at St. Rose Catholic Church, 398 10th St., Santa Rosa.

Donations in Jim's name can be made his daughters' college funds and made to either Julia or Mimi Rowe and sent to 3670 Kelsey Knolls, No. 116, Santa Rosa 95403.