The wildfire that swept down from the hills to eat away Santa Rosa’s northern edges last month was, among other more dreadful things, a great leveler. You may have noted, as did I, that Coffey Park residences lost had roughly half the assessed valuations of Fountaingrove — $300 to $600 per square foot.
But there is no doubling or halving the emotional and physical impact of losing your house, whatever it cost.
It comes down to other things — little ones, like your grandfather’s special tools in the case he made for them, the bag of molten quarters where the top dresser drawer used to be, your mother’s wedding ring. Those lists are long and varied and stained with tears.
Even those who escaped with their lives by the narrowest of margins have sifted the ashes in search of just one little bit of memory.
JUDY SAKAKI IS ONE of those. The survival story is Judy’s to tell. I will just say that the barefoot run up a burning street that she and her husband, Patrick McCallum, survived seems as close to a miracle as any of the stories I’ve heard.
Still, what makes the Sonoma State University president smile is telling of the discovery, in the ashes of her Fountaingrove home, of two tiny “heirlooms” — her mother’s tea cup, scorched but intact, and her grandfather’s sake cup.
They may well be added to the items in the Schulz Library’s second-floor gallery at SSU where an exhibit called Pathway to the Presidency includes other family treasures that tell Dr. Sakaki’s story, titled, “I Am Because….”
Several of the items relate to the World War II enforced “relocation” of her family from the Bay Area to an internment camp in the Utah desert. Not joyous history for certain — but ever so important.
What has become clear is that the exhibit has proven a blessing. It had been taken down and was packed up but not yet returned to the Sakaki/McCallum household.
Everything has been unpacked and returned to the exhibit space, where it will stay until mid-December.
Had these pieces of history not been in the gallery, they would be … well, I think you get the picture.
The president, who is currently enjoying dormitory life on campus, admits that her first walk-through of the restored exhibit was “very emotional.”
WE TALK ABOUT the history that has been lost. And there is some discussion beginning around how to “keep” the Fountaingrove Round Barn in a creative way. Elsewhere our history is being revealed in surviving bits and pieces.
One piece, considerably bigger than a bit, comes from the property of Kent Ustiantseff and Marian Larsen, who lost their home of nearly 40 years on Mark West Springs Road, near the former Ursuline campus.
Safe in the rubble and ash is the gravestone of Mark West himself.
It tells us William Marcus West was born in England and died January 1, 1850.
Early historians tell us more about him — that he was a ships’ carpenter who arrived in Mexican California in 1841, married a Californio woman named Guadalupe Vasquez and was granted, through the good offices of Mariano Vallejo in Sonoma, 6,663 acres known as Rancho San Miguel, bordering Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa on the north.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here