The Press Democrat remembers the 40 lives lost in the North Bay fires. Click here for more of the stories.

Marilyn Ress was quite renowned and beloved at Montgomery Village.

The former Penngrove farm girl was a regular at the Santa Rosa shopping center’s See’s candy store, lighting up at an offered sample of Rocky Road and purchasing a pound of this or that for a bus driver or a crossing guard or somebody else she believed would appreciate a bit of sweetness.

At the checkstand at the Lucky supermarket, Ress sometimes would spy a shopper she could tell was living on a thin edge and she’d hand the checker her ATM card, insisting to pay for the person’s groceries.

Ress would appear at Montgomery Village pushing her candy apple red walker and sporting one of her pink cardigan sweaters.

“She must have had 20 of them in her closet,” said her closest friend since the 1970s, Cynthia Conners.

What Ress wanted most in life, Conners said, was to assist and care for people who struggle and, if possible, to bring them a little joy. The diminutive, 1965 graduate of Petaluma High School worked for decades as a certified nursing assistant and after that was an in-home caregiver for people unable to tend to themselves.

For more than 15 years, Conners and Ress were neighbors at the apartments just behind the Mayette shopping center, about 10 blocks from Montgomery Village. During the holidays, they cooked up a storm and, at Ress’ initiative, carried meals to neighbors who were shut-in or alone.

There were many other unusual kindnesses that Ress, 71, extended to others.

She’d buy premium tickets to Luther Burbank Center performances she had no intention of attending and she’d present the tickets to others, said Conners, “just to see them smile.” Ress would pick up food from the pantry and garden at Christ Church United Methodist on Yulupa Avenue and take it to people who needed it.

Only about a year ago, she decided it would be better to own her own home rather than to the rent, so she bought a coach — at the Journey’s End mobile park on north Mendocino Avenue.

Conners remembers the great laugh she and Ress shared over the name of the place.

Ress was liking living there with her cats. Though Conners was shattered to learn that her friend died when the Tubbs fire swept through and destroyed most of Journey’s End, she spoke to a deputy coroner and drew some comfort from knowing that it appears Ress was sleeping as the firestorm approached and she passed quickly.

“The world just seems dimmer now,” Conners said. “There are a lot of lessons that humans can learn from Marilyn Ress.”