In a poignant memorial held just yards from where their 4-year-old son was struck and fatally injured by a car, the Rowe family Sunday afternoon gathered with family, friends and nearby residents in a show of appreciation.

"They made us believe in society, believe in the world, it has helped us through the dark moments," said Michelle Rowe of Santa Rosa, whose son, Christopher, was struck and killed while crossing West Ninth Street at Rockwell Place on Aug. 18.

Dozens of toys and notes are part of a tribute to Christopher "Buddy" Rowe that has grown around a street light next to the crosswalk, mostly put there by residents of apartment buildings that line the street.

In the center of the crosswalk in the street is a new bright yellow warning sign.

On Sunday afternoon, on the grass nearby, the Rowes set up tables, stacked with pizzas, fruit, vegetables, cookies and drinks for a crowd that grew to several dozen.

Michelle Rowe said it was her and husband Jim's way to thank the neighborhood's residents who have constructed the memorial, to police and the security guard who caught the suspect and to friends and family members who supported them.

"Jim and I still sob at night, but the fact is we have two beautiful girls ... we got to keep going," she said. "We have this hole and deadness, but we know we have to participate."

Hugs were exchanged, there was laughter and somber words both.

"This is really healing for them; it's their way of thanking the community," said Julie Halpin of Sebastopol, a close friend.

"They are really strong, it is amazing," said Tadashi Yamaguchi of Santa Rosa, another friend. "I wouldn't have been able to do it."

Dozens of children and some parents sat on the low sidewalk wall.

"We are really sad about this little boy," said 9-year-old Monserrat Zamuel, who was with her mother and grandmother. "We didn't know him, but sometimes we come out here and pray a little."

Christopher Rowe was crossing the street Aug. 18 with his mother, twin sister Julia and sister Mimi on Ninth Street at Link Lane when he was struck by the hit-and-run driver. He died of his injuries the following day.

The suspect's car was spotted and the driver was recognized by security guard Shane Goodman, who patrols the complex of apartments.

The information was broadcast over the police radio and was heard by Lee Flach of Santa Rosa, who spotted the driver and car at nearby Finley Park and alerted police.

The suspect, Marcos Lopez Garcia, 22, has been charged with felony hit-and-run, vehicular manslaughter and driving without a license and is being held in the Sonoma County Jail without bail on an immigration hold.

"We got lucky, another 30 seconds and he'd have been in the wind," said Police Sgt. Richard Celli, who was at the memorial Sunday.

Jim Rowe said there is some comfort knowing the suspected driver was caught.

"It would have been 10 times more painful if we knew he got away," he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or