Election Day came with an emotional hangover for many Democrats and others in American Canyon and Napa following the death of Paul Schapiro last Friday.
Schapiro, 58, was killed on the southbound shoulder of Highway 29 after his bicycle was struck by a car driven by Patricia Hill, 76, of Vallejo, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Hill’s 2009 Honda CR-V drifted onto the shoulder just north of Airport Boulevard, striking Schapiro before continuing down the highway, the CHP said. She was stopped outside American Canyon by a Napa County sheriff’s deputy.
CHP is still investigating the accident and awaiting a report to learn if Hill was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or may have had medical issues.
Word of Schapiro’s death spread quickly last weekend in Democratic Party circles as well as among his family and friends on Facebook.
Those close to him said he was the quintessential volunteer, “always there” for a political campaign or peace vigil, or just there as a friend.
“Devastating,” was how Tracy Krumpen, a 12-year friend of Schapiro’s and district director for state Sen. Lois Wolk, described the news.
“This has really hit everybody in the gut,” said Krumpen Monday night, the first time in two days she hadn’t cried, she added. “We’re not going to be the same without him.”
Krumpen feared the worst about Schapiro Friday evening while managing a phone bank operation located near Napa County Airport. She said some volunteers arrived saying there had been a bicycle-related fatality nearby on 29.
Because Krumpen and others at the phone bank knew what route Schapiro took every evening on his commute from Napa to American Canyon, they privately wondered, “Is it Paul?”
“No one said anything out loud,” said Krumpen, for fear they were right.
She got confirmation Saturday morning when American Canyon City Councilmember Belia Ramos called Krumpen to tell her the bad news.
“He was the most gentle, sweet man you would ever meet,” said Krumpen.
“Paul was an incredible soul, an amazing volunteer,” she added. “He would do anything” for you.
That sentiment was shared by Mary Ann Mancuso, who represents American Canyon on the Napa Valley College Board of Trustees.
In a long Facebook post published Sunday afternoon, Mancuso wrote: “Paul was a guy that would give you the shirt off his back whether he knew you or not. There was one day when I posted that I needed a glass of wine and didn’t have a drop in the house. Before you know it there was a bottle of wine on my doorstep. This is only one story, there were many like this.”
“I’m still finding it hard to believe that he’s gone,” Mancuso wrote, adding soon “it will hit us all very hard. He was a quiet but strong presence and will be missed.”
Schapiro had served on the Napa County Democratic Central Committee, and as party treasurer at one time. It was through the Democratic Central Committee that Schapiro met American Canyon City Councilmember Kenneth Leary last decade.
Leary was just starting to get involved in politics then, but was encouraged by Schapiro to run for the City Council. He wound up managing Leary’s 2012 campaign.
“Paul was a wonderful, gentle human being,” said Leary Monday afternoon. “But he also was feisty and ready for a good political fight.”
Although Schapiro was “very committed” to causes, which included participating in peace vigils at the corner of Third Street and Soscol Avenue in Napa, he also was “very fun” to be around, said Leary.
“He loved baseball,” Leary said. Schapiro’s favorite team was the New York Mets, due to the fact he grew up in the Big Apple. He also was a San Francisco Giants fan, according to Leary.
Schapiro’s other loves included rock music and attending the Bottlerock festival with Leary.
“I’m already missing him a lot,” said Leary by phone, his voice breaking. “I just hope he wasn’t in great pain” before he died.
The accident that killed Schapiro was not his first serious collision with an automobile while riding his bike.
Two years ago, Schapiro broke his leg in three places, according to Leary, after a driver opened their car door just as Schapiro was riding by.
Leary and his wife, Shirley, visited Schapiro in the hospital. The accident did nothing to deter the avid cyclist from riding again.
“All he could talk about was getting back on his bike,” said Leary.
Schapiro’s dedication to commuting by bike — including a daily 6½-mile ride each way to his accounting job at Perfect Purée in south Napa — earned him Bicycle Commuter of the Year Award in 2014 from the Napa County Bicycle Coalition.
“He took great pride in saying he would fill up his Prius [with gasoline] only two to three times a year,” said Krumpen.
When Schapiro won his award, he told the Napa Valley Register then that his hybrid had less than 11,000 miles on it.
In April 2016, two years later, Schapiro posted on Facebook that his bike had more mileage on it than his Prius. A snapshot of his dashboard showed his car’s odometer read: 12,449 miles.
This would indicate Schapiro had driven his car about 1,500 miles since 2014, or an average of about 60 miles a month.
“He walked the walk,” said Krumpen.
Krumpen and Leary said there are plans to hold a memorial for Schapiro, whose family lives back east, sometime this month in the Napa Valley.
It is only fitting to do so, Krumpen said, because, “We were his Democratic family here.”