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Retired from selling newspaper ads, Dorothy Guest found that volunteering to provide basic groceries to struggling Sonoma County families did her heart good.

Toiling many hours a week for some 25 years at a busy, little food pantry in Santa Rosa also helped to take Guest's mind off her decades-long quest for justice for victims of violent crime in general, and for her slain daughter in particular.

Just last May, Guest expressed gratitude to have lived long enough to see her daughter's killer sentenced to prison for what will likely be the rest of his life.

Guest had endured a long fight with cancer when she died Nov. 21 in Santa Rosa. She was 88.

The longtime resident of the city's Sherwood Forest neighborhood, off Montgomery Drive, was praised as smart, caring and comical by neighbors and by clients and fellow volunteers at the F.I.S.H. (Friends In Service Here) pantry.

"She was so giving and so thoughtful. She fed my dog a treat twice a day," said neighbor Linda Ward.

"She had a lot of hard things happen in her life, but she kept her sense of humor and she kept her spirit," Ward said.

Jeanne-Marie Jones, volunteer director of the F.I.S.H. pantry, said Guest was the sort of friend who unfailingly acknowledged one's birthday and other special occasions with a mailed card.

"She was just an outstanding person, that's all you can say about Dorothy," Jones said.

Guest and her late husband, G.W. "Gib" Guest, began collecting day-old bread and such for the pantry in the late 1980s, when it operated out of Santa Rosa's First United Methodist Church.

For many years she answered most of the phone calls made to F.I.S.H. by people in need of supplemental food. As her health and vigor declined in recent years, she worked at home and scheduled the shifts of volunteers.

"She never stopped, even when she got cancer," said grandson Brett Holme of San Francisco. "I remember she would spend hours on it (the scheduling) at her kitchen table."

Jones, the pantry director, said Guest was not only one of F.I.S.H.'s staunchest volunteers, but one of its trustiest donors. "Every month she sent us a check."

Professionally, Guest worked many years in advertising at the Marin Independent Journal and at The Press Democrat.

The joy left her life in 1984 with the slaying in San Francisco of her only child, Christine Holme, 36. Guest wore a red carnation every day to the trial of Holme's former partner, Claude T. Smith.

Smith was convicted and imprisoned, but Guest was heartbroken that the conviction was for voluntary manslaughter, not murder, and the prison sentence was for just four years.

Long afterward, Guest advocated for greater consideration of the rights of victims of violent crime, for a time serving as president of Justice for Murder Victims.

Earlier this year, Guest was back in a courtroom, this time in Napa, for the trial in which her daughter's killer, Smith, stood accused of beating and tossing battery acid on another former partner. Again, Guest wore a carnation to the courthouse.

Again, Smith was convicted. This time, Guest wept when a Napa County judge sentenced the 73-year-old Smith to 28 years and four months in prison.

"It took a long time. Too long," she said following the sentencing last May. But nearly 30 years after the death of her daughter, she was assured that the killer would never again harm a woman.

"I can't believe it. What goes around comes around," she said in May. "Thank God I lived to see it."

In addition to her grandson, Guest is survived by her sister, Bobbie Minor of Santa Ana; granddaughter, Michelle Holme Corrigan of Napa; and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral service is 10 a.m. Dec. 12 at Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery and Mortuary in San Rafael. A reception will follow at noon at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa.

Guest's family invites friends to bring along a donation of food for the F.I.S.H. pantry.