Sun 23 Oct 2016
Don DeWolfe, who died in 1987, published The Point Reyes Light/Baywood Press from 1957 to 1970 in what is now the Coastal Marin Real Estate building. He wrote the first part of this Bob Worthington retrospective as a column for the Jan. 19, 1984, issue.
By Don DeWolfe
“Former resident Bob Worthington was in town. Bob built a number of homes here. The first was George DeMartini’s home on Highway 1 north of the school.
Worthington (seen below in 1970), died in 2001. He was a World War II vet with a Purple Heart, as well as a former contractor, prison guard, and police informer.
“He built a cluster of homes on the Mesa, including his own, which is now owned by [Krauth Brand].
“He also built the apartment house on Mesa Road behind The Point Reyes Light building.”
“Worthington bought the lot from Burt Jensen, who owned Sunbeam Motors, and had it surveyed. [Sunbeam Motors was located on the main street where Cheda’s Garage is today.]
“Through the years as the county road crew replaced the blacktop on Mesa Road, they had rounded out the corner so much that the corner of Bob’s lot was now right in the center of the road. He took a pick and dug a hole in the blacktop at that spot. Sure enough, he found the old surveyor’s monument, and Bob needed every square foot of the lot for his building [to have enough setback from the road] to qualify for a building permit.
“On a Friday afternoon from the back window at my printing shop at The Light, I saw Bob appear, along with Walt Kantala and his backhoe.”
Don DeWolfe (right) pretending to type a column at the bar in the Old Western Saloon, which he frequented.
“Walt proceeded to tear the blacktop off the road. I walked back and said, ‘Bob, you’re fixing to get into a heap of trouble. You can’t just tear up the county road.’
“‘The hell I can’t,’ he replied. ‘It’s on my property.’
“‘But, Bob,’ I explained, ‘By right of eminent domain the county is going to claim they now own the road part of the lot.’
“‘Look, Don,’ he said. ‘It’s Friday afternoon. All the big wigs at Civic Center have already left for the weekend. By Monday morning, I’ll have the forms all in and be ready to pour the foundation.’
When I first came to Point Reyes Station in 1975, the fence to the right of the tree had not yet been erected, and more than a few inattentive motorists drove over the then-small sapling, usually breaking a bunch of limbs.
“Monday morning came, and so did the county. After a few words they departed. Next morning the road crew appeared and moved the road back over where it belonged. Bob built a monument on the corner and planted a tree in it.
“Later Bob did some remodeling for Sally Stanford at her San Francisco home. [Sally Stanford had been a brothel madam in San Francisco and later opened the Valhalla restaurant in Sausalito, where she was elected to the city council and became mayor.]
“One night on the way home Bob stopped at a bar in Sausalito for a drink. He overheard a couple of guys at the bar plotting to break into Sally’s home while she was away and steal her valuable jewelry. He tipped off the police, who put a stakeout on the place. A couple of nights later they nabbed the two guys trying to break in.
“Later someone fired a shot at Bob while he was driving along the road at Nicasio. The bullet went through the open window of his pickup right in front of his face and out the closed window on the other side. So Bob moved away.”
Sally Stanford in 1947
At this point, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Ralph Craib picks up the story. In a Nov. 4, 1966, report, “Good Citizen Pays High Price,” Craib described the many ways criminals exacted revenge on Bob Worthington for his informing the police about the impending burglary. Here are some excerpts from the article. By coincidence, Craib, who died in 1995, was the reporter who nominated The Point Reyes Light for its 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
By Ralph Craib
“An armed but frightened man recited yesterday the harrowing personal price he has paid since serving as a police informer.
“His [contracting] business is dead; he has been ambushed and shot, and his wife and two children live in constant fear and almost continuously on the move, said one-time San Quentin guard Robert Worthington.
“Worthington provided police with their first tip of the impending burglary of the home of Sally Stanford at 2324 Pacific Avenue in April of last year . Police Officer Salvatore Polani and three others were later convicted after falling into a trap which Worthington, then a Point Reyes contractor, helped set.
“Once his identity was revealed, he said, police were immediately assigned to guard him, his wife, and his daughter, 13, and son, 11.
“But his business began falling apart. He couldn’t go out to a lot to inspect a prospective building site, he said, until police had checked out the person he was to meet. He had to have his telephone disconnected because of ominous calls received by his wife.
Ralph Craib (right) celebrates with Cathy Mitchell and me in the Point Reyes Light’s newsroom on April 16, 1979. She and I had just learned that, thanks to Craib’s nomination, our little weekly newspaper had won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
“He has moved his family home five times and has had to send his family out of town on several occasions when police warned him that there was danger. Two cars he owned have been repossessed. Three homes which he had built and in which he had substantial investment have been foreclosed.
“On a couple of occasions, I was followed by strange cars,” Worthington said. “One night I was followed by a car without lights and went up to 100 miles an hour. At night time you can’t see back and the only thing to do is run.”
“Worthington was provided a gun by police — and used it once. He was ambushed on Lucas Valley Road in Marin County, Sept. 5, 1966, and grazed by a bullet. He fired two shots back at his attackers. ”
In 1999, Bob Worthington belatedly received a Purple Heart, having suffered PTSD and having developed a serious heart condition while fighting on Guadalcanal in World War II. He died in 2001 in Coos Bay, Oregon, at the age of 76.