Sonoma County native Millie Rogina enjoyed many good years, some of the most memorable dating to when, as a young wife and mother she managed the idyllic ranch near Glen Ellen of the Folgers Coffee Company founding family.
Rogina was a 1943 graduate of Sebastopol’s Analy High School. Before and after her 26 years of managing the Folger ranch, she worked a variety of jobs that made her well known to many in downtown Santa Rosa. She retired as a teller at the Bank of America branch at Third Street and Santa Rosa Avenue.
Widowed in 2002 by the death of her husband of 56 years, Rogina died April 20 at the age of 92.
She was born Mildred Marie Johansen in Santa Rosa on Nov. 20, 1925. She grew up in Sebastopol.
A lover of music, she played the violin well enough to perform with the Santa Rosa Symphony during World War II in 1944 and ’45.
It was near the end of the war that she married Edward Rogina. They’d met at Santa Rosa’s roller rink.
“Her best friend was dating one of his brothers,” said daughter Jane Liscum of Santa Rosa.
Millie Rogina went to work as a bookkeeper for the former Santa Rosa Hotel and later as a sales clerk at downtown’s Gensler-Lee Diamonds. In 1952, she was hired as the live-in caretaker of the former Folger Ranch on Sonoma Mountain Road.
Her children grew up there. “It was gorgeous,” Liscum said.
She said James and Jane Folger, who lived in San Francisco and used the ranch as a summer home, “were always good to us.
“We had it all. We had the cows and the sheep and the swimming pool and the horse, the whole shebang.”
Rogina spoke on occasion of hearing a neighbor of the Folger ranch boast that in 1913 he and two other men set fire to Jack London’s nearly finished estate a few miles away, the Wolf House. Well aware that the cause of the devastating blaze has long been in dispute, Rogina believed it was arson and that she’d met one of the arsonists.
She would recall the late neighbor of the ranch, Robert “Bob” Kennedy, declared repeatedly that he and two brothers from Sonoma Valley had torched Jack London’s Wolf House just as the globally acclaimed author, adventurer and socialist prepared to move into it.
Rogina said of Kennedy in 2013, “He didn’t say how, but he said they set fire to it.” She said Kennedy and his purported fellow arsonists didn’t like London and deemed him a drunkard and a womanizer.
Though several storylines imagine the burning of the 26-room, 15,000-square-foot Wolf House was intentional, the prevailing view is that the fire spread from the spontaneous combustion of linseed oil-soaked rags left in the dining room by workers who’d polished the room’s wooden mantle.
She and her family left the Folger ranch in 1978.
Rogina also volunteered at the former Warrack Hospital and Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, and she savored cruises and the occasional trip to a casino.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a son Michael Rogina of Sonoma, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.