Family, friends mourn Paul Umino, longtime Petaluma doctor killed in cycling crash

Paul Umino (Courtesy photo)


Paul Umino, a retired Petaluma physician, was an avid cyclist who even in his mid-70s would regularly pedal more than 200 miles a week on the rural roads stretching west from his hometown to the Pacific Ocean, according to family and friends.

He tended to avoid the busiest streets, his loved ones said, steering clear of Bodega Avenue and Valley Ford Road.

On Wednesday morning, as he sought to turn left off Valley Ford Road onto Gericke Road, he was struck and killed by an SUV that was traveling in the same direction in his lane and was behind him when he turned, according to the CHP.

His longtime girlfriend and frequent cycling partner, Karen Newman, was ahead of him at the time and was not injured.

Susan Davis, the driver of the Toyota SUV, a RAV4, slammed on her brakes trying to avoid Umino but was unable to stop in time, said Officer Jon Sloat, a CHP spokesman.

Davis, 68, of Novato, had been heading east on Valley Ford about 10:20 a.m., traveling at an estimated 50 mph — 5 mph below the speed limit — when the collision occurred, Sloat said. Her vehicle left 30 to 40 feet of skid marks on the road, he said.

An investigation is ongoing but Davis does not appear to be at fault according to initial findings, Sloat said. She has not been cited.

For family and friends of Umino, 74, an affable family doctor who practiced in Petaluma for more than 40 years before he retired in 2014, the fatal crash has left a cruel void and many unanswered questions.

He was a cautious cyclist who wore safety gear and used a bike light in the daytime, said his oldest daughter, Whitney Umino, 37, of Chicago.

“Nothing about this makes sense. He’s the most careful rider I’ve ever seen,” said Stephanie Carpenter, a family friend and fellow cyclist.

He often would drive to Two Rock Valley Presbyterian Church from his home in west Petaluma to start his rides on roads that weren’t main thoroughfares, said Whitney Umino and her sister, Mallory Umino, 31, of Petaluma.

He made donations to the congregation for the regular use of their property, Mallory Umino said. He parked there Wednesday, his daughters said, but sometimes major roads are unavoidable.

The family did not dispute the CHP’s initial account of the accident. Newman did not witness it, family members said, and was unavailable Friday for an interview.

Mallory Umino, meanwhile, voiced concern for Davis’ feelings in the aftermath of the crash.

Paul Umino practiced for years with El Rose Medical Group, caring for thousands of patients in Petaluma and making regular house calls until his retirement, according to his daughters.

The son of Japanese-American parents who’d been interned in an Arkansas camp during World War II, he was born Sept. 2, 1943 — outside of confinement in Pennsylvania, due to the sponsorship of a local family — and moved when he was 4 years old back to California, where he was raised alongside three brothers on a Tulare County fruit and vegetable farm.

He served in the Air Force in the Aleutian Islands and at Travis Air Force Base during the Vietnam War.

He studied pre-med at UC Davis and medicine at Creighton University.

He took up cycling about 20 years ago after he won a few thousand dollars playing craps at a casino outside of Lake Tahoe, his daughters said.

He used his winnings to buy a road bike and a mountain bike, Whitney Umino said.

“My dad was into cycling before it was cool,” she said.

After he retired, in addition to cycling, he devoted his time to his family, his garden, cooking with Newman, his partner, and bird watching, often at Ellis Creek with his yellow lab, Charlie, his family said.

In addition to his daughters, Whitney and Mallory, he is survived by sons Patrick, 40, and Marcus, 35.

A public memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 4 at the Ellis Creek Wetlands, 3890 Cypress Drive, Petaluma.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance.