Mildred “Millie” Rogina, a daughter of Santa Rosa beloved as one of downtown’s most delightful store clerks and bank tellers, died not quite three weeks ago.
Even more recently, Millie’s daughter, Jane Liscum, was reading the PD online and landed on a slice-of-history story that made her eyes pop.
It was about a fellow who settled in Santa Rosa in the mid-1940s and introduced himself as Vincent Rossi, a retired furniture dealer from the Midwest.
Vincent Rossi! Jane Liscum had grown up hearing her mother’s recollection of Vincent Rossi, a story that made her hair stand up.
In 1947, Millie was working the counter at downtown’s Gensler-Lee Diamonds. She saw a customer pocket a piece of jewelry and walk out.
Millie took off after her. The young sales clerk hadn’t run far when she heard her boss, store owner Bernie Russ, shout for her to come back. She complied.
Back in the shop, Russ praised Millie for her courage but counseled her never to pursue that customer. He explained that she was Lena Rossi and it was OK that she stole jewelry because her husband would promptly come in and pay for it.
Sure enough, the next day Vincent Rossi came in and paid for the piece his wife had lifted.
A little odd, Millie thought.
Then came the headlines: On May 8, 1947, Vincent Rossi’s body was found stuffed into the trunk of his Chrysler Town & Country in San Francisco.
But he wasn’t Vincent Rossi. Lawman revealed that he was in fact an Al Capone-associated mobster, Nick DeJohn, who’d fled Chicago and a hit list.
It would sometimes occur to Millie that it was probably good she hadn’t run down his wife outside of Gensler-Lee.
THAT EX-HOSPITAL up on Santa Rosa’s Chanate Road is a faded jewel of the New Deal.
The Great Depression was grinding on when, in the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration put people to work building the Sonoma County Hospital that became Community Hospital that became Sutter Hospital and now is vacant.
If you can get to Gray Brechin’s free talk at 6 p.m. this evening at the Roxy Stadium 14 theaters, expect great insight into the birth and significance of the landmark and several others, some at SRJC, that all were built by FDR’s New Deal.
Brechin, a visiting scholar in UC Berkeley’s geography department, works to map all of the state landmarks erected by the federal program that gave Depression-idled people a shot at creating something worthwhile, reclaiming some dignity and putting food on the table.
It’s necessary to register for his talk, “Recovering from the Great Depression: How President Roosevelt’s New Deal Catapulted Sonoma County into the 20th Century and Our Retreat to the 19th,” by going onto historicalsocietysantarosa.org.
Gaye LeBaron will introduce Brechin, and set the stage.
BUZZY TO LA LA LAND: Sebastopol music man and champion of imperiled youth Buzzy Martin is soon off on a quick trip to Los Angeles.
The feature film “Guitar Man,” inspired by the book Buzzy wrote after he ventured regularly into San Quentin to teach inmates to make music, will receive at least one major prize from the Independent Filmmakers Showcase.