On the very same day in late October, two important west county women left this world. Dr. Marie Schaap, who lived to be 93, came from Pennsylvania to attend medical school in Southern California. There she met and married her classmate Dr. Charles Schaap, and together they embarked on a long medical practice in Monte Rio. Their amazingly well-equipped office included a laboratory, a pulmonary machine and a facility for colonoscopies in order to serve people scattered for miles along the Russian River and up and down the coast.
Dr. Marie was also an Aviation Medical Examiner and a physician for the U. S. Army Reserve. And she raised four children along the way.
Later in life, she and Dr. Charlie put time, effort and money into saving the Northwood Golf Course for the enjoyment of golfers near and far. It’s a nine-hole gem, set out in 1928 by renowned golf course architect Dr. Alister Mackenzie who also designed the Augusta National Course, Cypress Point on the Monterey Peninsula and Pasatiempo near Santa Cruz, to name but three of his masterpieces. With its rolling fairways and sloping greens tucked among towering redwoods, the Northwood course exhibits Mackenzie’s genius. For many years, Dr. Marie served as president of the board of Northwood Recreation, Inc., the owner of the course and the lively restaurant nearby. In the final years of her life, she could be seen on the putting green, a bit unsteady on her feet, perhaps, but determined to sink a putt.
During the recent evacuation, Dr. Marie had to be taken to a rest home in Sacramento for her final days. With winds and fires affecting huge areas in the path of danger, dislocations are part of life now. It’s a shame, though, that Dr. Marie couldn’t spend her last days in Sonoma County which she had served so well.
For 50 years, Louise Ambrosini and her husband Carlo operated the bustling River Inn restaurant on Guerneville’s main thoroughfare. With her wonderful smile and gracious manner, Louise greeted folks at the door, showed them to their table and kindly took their money when they paid their bill. Carlo, who really knew how to cook, could be heard banging around and sometimes speaking more than emphatically in the small kitchen. But out of that kitchen came an immense variety of dishes for a menu that listed everything from delectable veal scaloppini to many kinds of sandwiches and even soda fountain fare.
If you ordered a turkey sandwich for lunch, you got fresh roasted turkey that Carlo sliced off the hefty bird he had put in the oven early that morning. They also served some of the freshest fish in Sonoma County. I often ordered sand dabs there, and they came a few minutes later lightly sautéed with a few capers on top. Exquisite. For breakfast you could get Swedish pancakes.
Like many river proprietors in those days, the Ambrosinis took the winter off. We all waited eagerly for their return in the spring. With tourists flocking the streets in summer vacation months, it was all but impossible to get in the door, but there was Louise, smiling and welcoming everyone. Today, the Russian River Grill, current edition of the restaurant, does very well in the same location.
A woman of faith and progressive ideas, Louise kept reading and learning all her life. She raised her children, served on the County Grand Jury and was a member of the St. Eugene choir that sang at the Vatican.
In retirement, she took memoir-writing courses and left behind a record of how life was for her, something we all should do.
Since her death at age 96, everyone I’ve talked with about her has mentioned her warm, welcoming smile.
Bob Jones is the former minister of the Guerneville and Monte Rio Community Church.