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Highway 49 pedestrian dies from collision injuries

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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In a coma for more than two weeks, a pedestrian injured in a June 15 collision with a car on Highway 49 has died. Claude “Danny Boy” Hiers, 47, was taken off life support Sunday and died on Monday at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. Hiers had apparently stepped out onto the five-lane stretch of Highway 49 about 100 yards north of the Dry Creek Road intersection, leaving no time for the car’s driver – 26-year-old Jerilyn Aldrich – to avoid him. Hiers’ death was confirmed Thursday by his sister-in-law Gloria Greterman, who said it was fitting that he would go out on the 4 th of July – “A vivid day for a vivid guy.” Hiers was remembered Thursday by a Downtown Auburn businesswoman he had befriended as a sensitive, trusting soul under a heavily tattooed “rough and tumble” exterior that some people found off-putting. But Lisa Baehr, owner of High Street’s Auburn Blooms, said she, her boyfriend, Eric McNabb, and her 19-year-old son, Justin Haskin, came to know a man who struggled with substance abuse and a life that included several stints in jail but was trustworthy, a writer of poetry and a kind heart who would chip in to help around the business. Weeks ago, Hiers spray-pointed 300 carnations blue for a flower arrangement used during the Amgen Tour of California start in Auburn, she said. In the back of the shop are cardboard boxes assembled by Hiers before his death. And Baehr has kept a pile of poems that her son is now thinking of setting to music. “He’d give you the shirt off his back,” Baehr said. Baehr first met Hiers about a year ago when she locked herself out of her shop on Mother’s Day, the store’s busiest day of the year. “He asked if he could help and I told him ‘No, not unless you can break in,’” Baehr said. “He said ‘Sure.’” Hiers soon became a friend, who would sit at a desk in the back of the store rattling off poetry or helping out where he could. “He really didn’t have a home and he wanted something to do,” Baehr said. “He was covered in tattoos but he was the sweetest man you’d ever meet.” Baehr said she learned that Hiers had spent 20 of his 47 years in jail for non-violent offenses. “He had a rough life but he was a sweetheart, and we became good friends,” Baehr said. Outside the store, Hiers would cross the street without much care for traffic – something Baehr said she warned him about repeatedly. She said it wasn’t hard to imagine that Hiers stepped out onto Highway 49 the night of the accident not expecting to be struck. The car was going 35 mph and California Highway Patrol Officer Dave Martinez said there was no indication that the driver was at fault. Hiers was taken to the Roseville hospital with major injuries and sunk into a coma that he would never come out of. Plans are for a service from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Auburn’s Recreation Park. It’s a potluck, with friends and family invited to bring photos and stories of Hiers.