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Healdsburg man dies from hit‑and-run bike crash injuries

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How To Help

A GoFundMe page has been set up to by Gary Begley's family to help with funeral expenses. To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/gary-begley.

Longtime Healdsburg resident Gary Begley, who was riding his bicycle when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver last week, has died of his injuries.

Family members on Monday recalled how Begley, who died Sunday, had aspired to become a nurse, applying his keen intellect and holistic approach to the world around him. While he never fulfilled that goal, he spent his life helping people in need.

Begley, 61, spent his childhood years in Southern California, where he encountered obstacles including periods of estrangement from each of his parents. He moved to Alabama to live with his father, finishing high school there after his father’s suicide. He made his way back to Huntington Beach to be closer to his two sisters and his mother, who later died of brain cancer, said his twin sister, Terri Moss of Irvine.

Begley, who was without stable housing as long as most of the people who knew him could recall, lived in Healdsburg off and on over the past two decades, becoming a reliable and well-regarded member of the community as an occasional landscaper and handyman. Despite his own struggles, he was often found with his arms outstretched to others and rarely with hands open, friends said.

“He was a really caring, giving man. He was always talking about someone who needed help more than him, and always concerned more with other people,” said Rick Cafferata, homeless outreach coordinator with north county nonprofit Reach for Home. “He didn’t deserve to go out like this, it’s just heartbreaking. And now as he passes, it’s really hitting a lot of people hard here in town.”

His parents’ deaths would affect him for much of his life and contribute to a persistent struggle with alcohol and related health ailments. Earlier this year, Begley worked hard to finally kick the bottle and begin to pull himself out of homelessness, according to family and friends. Those who knew him well fondly remember him with a fly-fishing rod in his hands every chance he got.

“That’s where his soul was in the best place, out fishing on a little boat somewhere,” his sister said. “He loved the woods and the environment and that’s just kind of where he belonged. He was in heaven there out on the ocean, out on the water, with zero money and zero food, and he’d end up meeting people.”

CHP officers are seeking the driver who struck Begley and fled Thursday after the 5:45 p.m. collision on Westside Road, east of West Dry Creek Road, just outside city limits. Cafferata said Begley had been living in a tent near where he was struck.

Emergency responders found Begley conscious in the westbound lane of Westside Road, where the speed limit is 45 mph, with his Specialized road bike nearby, nearly broken in half from the impact, Healdsburg Fire Capt. Gerald Williams said.

After the crash, Begley was taken by ambulance to Santa Memorial Hospital, where he remained Friday after undergoing surgery to remove blood from his brain caused by multiple skull fractures. He also suffered a broken shoulder and broken ribs that punctured his kidneys, Moss said.

By Saturday night, the family, including older sister Toni Lasko of Healdsburg, decided to take him off life support. He died early Sunday morning.

Funeral arrangements are pending, but the family has established a GoFundMe page to help cover expenses.

The CHP, which is overseeing the investigation, is not certain which direction Begley was riding at the time of the collision, nor what kind of vehicle hit him. Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call 707-588-1400.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler. Staff Writer Randi Rossmann is available at 707-521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

How To Help

A GoFundMe page has been set up to by Gary Begley's family to help with funeral expenses. To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/gary-begley.

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