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Sonoma Valley notables who passed away in 2016

Sonoma Valley lost more than its fair share of notable long-time residents in 2016. Based on comments and remembrances received from readers, we’re looking back at the lives of a few, including Kathy Gerletti, Linus Maurer, Carole Downing, Dick Cole, Rolf Olness, Elizabeth Kemp, Jim Berkland and Pat Elliott.

Jan. 5

Kathryn (Kathy) Johnson Gerletti passed away age at 60. She was born in New York and moved to South Pasadena and lived briefly in Pakistan. She attended Sonoma State University, and was known to many in the community for having taught aerobics at Sonoma Mission Inn, worked as a server at the Jack London Lodge, as a dog groomer at My Pal Pet, as a community service officer at Humane Society of Sonoma and as the beloved El Verano post-mistress.

Jan. 29

Cartoonist Linus Maurer died at the age of 90. His hand-drawn, editorial page cartoons graced the pages of the Sonoma Index-Tribune for many years. His cartoons and puzzles also appeared in newspapers nationwide, and he continued at his sketchpad until his passing, despite the challenges of Parkinson’s disease. He attended the Minneapolis School of Art and Design with the late Charles Schulz, creator of “Peanuts,” who named his character with the striped shirt and security blanket after his buddy. Schulz and Maurer remained lifelong friends until Schulz’s death in 2000.

March 27

Carole Cecile Sterling Downing died at the age of 73. Born in Lehi, Utah, she married Dale Downing in 1961 and they had one child, Tamera Lee. The Downings moved to Glen Ellen and went in partnership with Don and Sherry Shone in the ownership of Shone’s Country Store, Sonoma Market and Glen Ellen Village Market. After her divorce in 2005, Carole was reintroduced to Charles Terzian (a friend from high school) and they were together until her passing. Carole loved playing golf and tennis, cards and she was an active volunteer at Valley of the Moon Boys & Girls Club, the Sonoma Rotary Club, and the Sonoma Mentoring Alliance/Stand By Me. Earlier this year, the Rotary Club raised $178,000 to fund Carole Downing Maker Lab at Altimira Middle School.

July 22

Jim (James) Berkland died a few days shy of his 86th birthday. He was a retired geologist and avid writer who grew up and lived much of his later life in Glen Ellen. He earned an undergraduate degree in geology from Berkeley in 1958, and worked with the US Geological Survey after college. Following graduate work at San Jose State, he worked with the Bureau of Reclamation in Alaska. Berkland came to national fame in 1989 when he publicly predicted what he called a “World Series Earthquake” in the pages of the Gilroy Dispatch. In the 20 years since he returned to the Valley of the Moon, he became active in the volunteer fire department, the Lions Club, the Jack London Foundation, and the Glen Ellen Historical Society. He was also a docent at Bouverie Preserve and Glen Ellen Community Church.

Sept. 26

Richard (Dick) Stonnell Cole was an award-winning illustrator and nationally-recognized watercolorist. He grew up in Redlands and graduated with honors from UCLA and Art Center College of Design. He served with the U.S. Air Force as an air traffic controller during the Berlin Airlift. Upon his return to the states, he worked in advertising as an art director, graphic designer, illustrator and teacher, in New York (Young and Rubicam), Palo Alto, San Francisco and Sonoma. He was a co-founding artist of Sonoma Plein Air, and past board member of the Sonoma Valley Art Museum. He passed away at age 89, and was awarded the 2016 Sonoma Treasure Artist posthumously.

Oct. 24

Rolf Olness passed away in Sonoma at age 72. Born in North Dakota, he attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota and later the University of Arizona. He graduated from the University of Texas medical school and spent his residency Honolulu, where he met his future wife, LeeJay. Rolf was drafted to the Navy in 1972 and served in Japan. Following his discharge, the Olnesses settled in Sonoma where their daughter, Kara Lee, was born in 1974. He practiced family medicine in Sonoma for 40 years and he worked as doctor in the ER at Sonoma Valley Hospital (SVH). In 2011, he was voted SVH’s “Physician of the Year,” He was also actively involved in the Kiwanis Club and volunteered his time for many years working with local high school athletes,

Dec. 2

Elizabeth Cuss Kemp passed away at age 82. Born in London, England, she later travelled the world, working in hotel management. She married James Kemp, and after a short time in Ukiah, settled in Sonoma. For 25 years, Kemp operated a home daycare, becoming one of the few such centers in the area to take in infants. In 2001, she conceived of a program that would become known as the Brown Baggers, making and distributing meals to vineyard workers and day laborers, and eventually all manner of hungry folk. She also helped establish Sonoma’s Brown Bag Café, offering hot meals weekly at the Grange Hall and at La Luz Center.

Dec. 4

Patricia (Pat) Peters Eliot died at age 87 on Sonoma Mountain, whose beauty she helped preserve. As a teenager, she worked on the Jack London Dude Ranch, now the State Historic Park. She was married for more than 65 years to Theodore Eliot, a career Foreign Service Officer, and accompanied him to his posts in Sri Lanka, Germany, the Soviet Union, Iran and Afghanistan (where he was the U.S. Ambassador) and Washington, D.C. Their four children Sally, Ted, Wendy and Peter, were born in four different countries. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees concurrently in 1969 from the University of Maryland and later served as executive director of the Association of Homes for the Aging in Massachusetts and was appointed by then Gov. Michael Dukakis to two related statewide commissions. The Eliots moved to Sonoma in 1988, and she concentrated her time and energies on conservation issues. She served on the board of LandPaths and, along with the late George Ellman, founded Sonoma Mountain Preservation.