A Sonoma Valley Vignette


Photo by Nathan Sudds from stock.xchng.com.

My friend Luis is a most unusual guy…..he grew up in Argentina and had to serve in the army during the bad times, but he had an uncle connected with one of the cruise lines who was able to get him a job as a hair stylist (!) on a ship.  Well, he became a good stylist and emigrated to the US where he finally landed in Boyes Hot Springs (part of our community;  I actually live there).  Unlike many stylists, he is a great carpenter, has reworked his house, rode a hog with bikers, and is an all-around good badass.  And he gives good haircut, styling, and bikini waxing (not for me).

About 2 decades ago he got married and they had two great children, a boy and a girl.  Unfortunately, his wife became an addict and she took the kids and lived with her family in one of the scary counties in northern California.  Luis tried to get the kids back but to no avail, as the family were also the sheriff and officials of that location.  Eventually, the two young children watched their mother die from a too potent injection.

Luis took every dime he had and fought to get the kids over the next several years.  Although it broke him financially, he was finally able to get a judge to give him custody and he brought them to Sonoma.

A wonderful woman resident of our community who has worked with children’s  problems for years started an organization here called the Willmar Center for bereaved children:  those eligible to come have had a terrible loss of a close relative or friend.  They work with the children, do fun things, and try to get them to open up.  What a wonderful and difficult program.  It did wonders for Luis’ kids.

About this time, Judi Flowers had been contacted by In Wine Country, a show by NBC locally that follows wineries, restaurants and other wonders of our wonderful area.  It has been shown around the country and you may have seen it.  Judi is shown making slippers, and she and her associates drive from Novato to Sonoma (about 20 miles) to visit the kids at Willmar.  At the time, I was involved with Willmar and helped them put together their first fund-raising dinner event.  Judi gave slippers to the kids on camera for their parents or themselves, talked to them (she has been a hospice volunteer for 25 years), and ironically, two of the children who talked on camera were Luis’s, which we didn’t know at the time.

Several months later we met Luis and the kids at a local restaurant and started talking to them, and I ended up getting my haircuts from him (razor cuts!).  Two days ago I got my monthly shearing and Luis was bubbling over;  his son had moved to the City (SF of course) and was working and living with two friends.  His daughter had graduated from high school with honors, had been accepted  at San Francisco State with full scholarship and was able to get into a dorm and there was a caring woman in the City (Elsa Nelson) who was mentoring her and giving her the love she had missed.

So yesterday, I took a vhs of my film “Derby” (played in 6 Festivals, given 4 stars by Roger Ebert and called one of the 10 best films of the year by the New York Times, Washington Post, and other critics) to the local UPS store.  It is a cinema verite, and the protagonist is a young-tire builder from Dayton who wants to become a Roller Derby star.  His name, Mike Snell.  Well it just so happens one of my facebook friends is named Mike Snell (not the same), so I sent him the tape.  The lady behind the counter was very helpful…..Just then, Nina Gorbach came walking by;  Nina had founded Willmar, left it several years ago in good hands, and I hadn’t seen her.  We hugged, and I told her about seeing Luis and how he was so excited about his daughter and suddenly the girl behind the counter looked up and smiled and Nina smiled and I realized she was Luis’s daughter!

Small world…..don’t you love happy endings?

3 comments on “A Sonoma Valley Vignette

  1. for those who asked, Luis works out of his house near the Fairmount Sonoma Mission Inn. His “shop” is called the Atelier, phone 707-933-8507. great at styling coloring etc.

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