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Issue Home March 11, 2003 Site Home


Paul Golis, formerly of William’s Pond, was valedictorian of his 1936 class in Montrose High School. Paul Golis, the son of Polish immigrants, who created the city of Rohnert Park in the 1950’s after envisioning houses, schools and shopping centers on a sweeping swatch of adobe farmland, died January 27, 2003, in the Napa Valley after a heart attack. He was 85.

Golis, who made his home in Thousand Oaks in Ventura County, was visiting his daughter in the Alexander Valley when he was stricken. He died in the cardiac care unit at St. Helena Hospital.

One of nine children of a Pennsylvania coal miner, Golis, known as the father of Rohnert Park, was a self-made man, known for his brilliant mind, combative style, eloquence and tenacity. He was part urban visionary and part capitalist who saw a city rising from marginally productive farmland that he and his partner, Maurice Fredericks, bought for $200 an acre in the 1950s.

Family members said Golis never really was driven by money but by an abiding Jeffersonian philosophy that every American should have a home, a bit of land and a neighborhood school.

"My father was driven by a kind of romantic altruism that is difficult to explain in the context of today's world. He would often say, ‘All I want to do is build a city where a schoolteacher can afford to buy a house,’ and when he said it, you believed him," said son Peter Golis of Santa Rosa, editorial director of The Press Democrat.

When Rohnert Park rose from the hayfields, Golis brought a new style of building to Sonoma County – a fully planned, prepackaged town. It was a planning concept based on mass-produced, modestly priced homes with neighborhood parks and schools.

Until Golis, Sonoma County's cities had simply expanded their borders from smaller, 19th-century settlements.

A lawyer by profession, Golis moved to Santa Rosa in 1947 and learned the art of land development as the chief legal adviser to budding Santa Rosa shopping center developer Hugh Codding. Golis was Codding's legal adviser for 10 years, and the two remained friends throughout their lives.

"Paul Golis created Rohnert Park out of nothing,'" Codding said Tuesday. "He was a fine man and I admired and respected him."

The land for Golis' new city was the Rohnert Seed Farm, 2,600 acres of treeless flatlands along Highway 101 just north of Cotati. It was a stretch of hardscrabble farmland that was nearly unworkable because of the heavy adobe in the soil.

The persuasive Golis convinced Fred Rohnert, whose Hollister-based international seed business owned the farm, that his vision for a city could become a reality. He had a blueprint and was determined to create a city of 30,000 residents from nothing.

Many thought it couldn't be done, but Golis' tenacity carried the project. Today, with 42,000 residents, Rohnert Park is Sonoma County's third-largest city.

The first home in Rohnert Park was completed in 1957. The day after Thanksgiving that year, Golis quickly moved in to claim the title of Rohnert Park's first official resident.

Golis always was determined to succeed. He left the family farm his coal-miner father kept in Montrose, PA, at 13 when his father wanted him to milk cows rather than go to high school. Golis finished first in his class at Albright College in Reading, Pa. He went on to law school and was first in his class at Duke University.

As a college student in Pennsylvania, Golis fought in amateur boxing under the name "Joe Farmer" because boxing was considered beneath college students.

Founding Rohnert Park was just one of Golis' wide-ranging ventures.

He made an unsuccessful Democratic bid for the North Coast's 1st Congressional District seat in 1952, ran unsuccessfully for Rohnert Park's City Council in 1972, mounted a criminal defense of Arthur Carnine, one of the most celebrated murderers in Santa Rosa's history, and owned two restaurants.

He loved the written word and was known for his poetry and biting commentary. He founded and published the Montgomery Village News in Codding's new Montgomery Village and later published the short-lived Rohnert Park News in the early 1970s. He published two books and had two plays staged in Los Angeles. One of his books, "The Odyssey of the Patricia," is currently at the Montrose Public Library.

In addition to his son Peter, Golis is survived by another son, Robert Golis of Trondheim, Norway; daughters Mary Panttaja of Healdsburg, Margaret Sorentino of Santa Rosa and Melinda Golis of Applegate, OR; sisters Mary Sibilia of Bridgewater, NJ, and Catherine Bielucki of Newville, PA; brothers Joseph Golis of New Smyrna Beach, FL, Carl Golis of Bath, England, and George Golis of Montrose, PA; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

He was predeceased by two brothers, Michael and Anthony; a sister, Helen; and his parents, Peter and Elizabeth Golis.

A Memorial at Sea Service was held aboard the 70-foot motor yacht Avalon, in Sausalito, CA, and taken just outside of the Golden Gate Bridge where the ashes of Paul and his wife, Gloria Gray Golis were scattered.

The family suggests memorial contributions to the Paul and Gloria Golis Scholarship Fund, care of the Development Office, Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park 94928. The fund is directed to women going back to school, as Gloria did.


E. Monica Hurley, 95, entered eternal rest on Friday, February 28, 2003 at the Hilltop Manor Retirement Community, Johnson City, NY.

She was born in 1907, in Middletown, NY, the daughter of the late James and Anna McGillis Hurley.

She is survived by numerous loving nieces, nephews and friends including Mary Ellen and Suzanne Potter, Milford, CT, Thomas Tingley, Syracuse, NY, William and Nancy Ryan and family, Stony Point, NY, Lydia Ryan and family, New York City, NY; her loving friends, George and Martha Moulton and family, Chenango Bridge, NY; the wonderful Hilltop Manor Retirement Community staff who make Hilltop a "home." They provided such loving and attentive care to Monica during her stay there.

Monica was a graduate of Laurel Hill Academy in Susquehanna, PA, and the Robert Packer School of Nursing, Sayre, PA. She loved being an orthopedic nurse, specializing in the care of children and worked at hospitals in Endicott, New York City and Valhalla, NY.

Funeral services were held on March 6, at St. John’s Church, Susquehanna, where a Mass of Christian Burial was offered by the Rev. Charles Connor. Interment, St. John’s Cemetery, Susquehanna.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Humane Society, 2 Jackson St., Binghamton, NY 13903.

Funeral arrangements were made by Hennessey’s Funeral Home, Susquehanna.

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