To cheese i hope this does not happen to you in your old age

OAKLAND - Rosie Kreidler speaks proudly of her 1964 Olympic glory, in
which gold might have been hers but for a backward glance.
She speaks proudly of her nursing career, in which she cared for others
until a car crash left her unable to continue.

Jobless, recently homeless and just shy of 62, she uses meager public
support to keep a roof over her head and a little food in her belly
while using every breath to speak on behalf of homeless seniors. She
tells anyone who will listen: What happened to her could happen to

Yet until this week, her pride kept her from speaking a word to her own
family about having spent months living in her car on Oakland's
streets, and then months more on a homeless shelter's cot.

She never even told her nephew here in the Bay Area. His name is Barry
Bonds, and he is the San Francisco Giants' left fielder now nearing
baseball's all-time home-run record even as he is beset by doping
allegations. His $22 million salary in 2005 made him the second-highest
paid player in Major League Baseball.

"If he knew, he would help ... but it's hard. Maybe I'm nuts," she said
Monday, startled that a reporter had discovered they are related. "He's
just like his father; he will do anything for you if you ask him. If he
knew about this, he'd be mad at me (for not telling him) ... but I
don't want him to know."

With the news about to get out, she said she had finally talked
Thursday with her sister-in-law - Barry's mother - Pat. A
reporter's calls to Barry Bonds' publicist were not returned Friday.

Being honest about this with her family is not easy, she had said
earlier in the week.

"This is the first time in my life I haven't been able to handle it by
myself. ... Rosie has always been there for everybody else and I'm
supposed to be the strong one. I don't want that

image lost. I still want them to know I'm strong."

She does not seem to realize how strong she appears to those around

At St. Mary's Center, the social-services agency at 22nd Street and
Martin Luther King Jr. Way that sheltered her from the streets, she is
greeted and often embraced by everyone she meets, staff and fellow
clients alike. Rosie Kreidler has become a fixture there, part of a new
family of destitute seniors ignored by society.

This is the family she wants to publicize.

She testified last Saturday at a public hearing and "truth commission"
meeting on Alameda County's health care crisis, recounting how a
mountain of medical debt left her unable to work and, ultimately,
homeless. Now, $300 of her $336 in monthly General Assistance pays rent
on her tiny place in a downtown Oakland building for low-income

She went to Sacramento recently with local food-bank officials to lobby
lawmakers for better benefits for seniors; she is going again this
week. She receives $91 a month - about $3 per day - in food stamps.
"I have $1.19 to get me through until April 3," she said Monday.

And a New York City snowstorm thwarted a February trip with St. Mary's
Center Executive Director Carol Johnson to testify at a United Nations
conference on eradication of poverty. She still has a copy of the
statement she had planned to make there.

She has done all this under her married name, Kreidler, despite having
been divorced for decades and having gone by "Rosie Bonds" in news
articles about her nephew as recently as 2004. That is not the kind of
notice she wants now; even her St. Mary's caseworker did not know until
this week.

"This is, I think, where God wants me to be, helping homeless seniors,"
Kreidler said. "With God's help, I think I'll weather this."

Family of champions

Born July 7, 1944, in Riverside, Rosie Bonds Kreidler hails from a
family of champions.

Her brother Bobby's renowned strength and speed brought him nearly 400
home runs and more than 400 stolen bases during 14 Major League
Baseball seasons, including seven with the Giants. He died of cancer in
August 2003 at age 57 but not before seeing his son become one of the
game's most famed names.

Another brother, Robert, was a high school track-and-field state meet
champion who played football at San Jose State University and
professionally in Canada. Living in Morro Bay after retiring from the
faculty of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, he is not in great health, his
sister said.

Rosie Bonds in 1964 was a rarity - an African-American woman at the
top of her sport as the U.S. women's 80-meter hurdling champion for two
consecutive years - when she tried out for the Olympic team. When she
could not afford airfare to the trials in New York, singer Ray Charles
flew her there on his own plane; lacking hotel money, she slept in the
stadium. She was the women's hurdling champion at the trials.

On Oct. 18, 1964 - less than three months after her nephew Barry's
birth - she finished first in the Tokyo Summer Olympics women's
80-meter hurdles' first round, fourth heat at 10.6 seconds. In a
semifinal the next day, she finished fourth at 10.8 seconds.

In the final, running in the first lane and leading at midrace, she
glanced back and to the right to gauge her rivals. She hit the final
hurdle and came in eighth at 10.8 seconds; she retired from track two
years later at age 22.

This athletic pedigree is part of why she insists her nephew would not
have intentionally taken performance-enhancing drugs. "I don't think,
given our family's DNA and physiology, that we need enhancers," she
said, calling Barry Bonds a dedicated, consummate athlete as well as a
caring role model and philanthropist who has been unfairly pilloried by
the media.

She became a licensed vocational nurse - her license remains active
- working in trauma, medical/surgical, transitional care and other

Divorced, she raised her daughter largely on her own.

By 2002, she was shuttling back and forth between the Bay Area, where
she had steady work through a nursing registry, and Riverside, where
she helped care for her mother, now about 92. She applied to Doctors
Without Borders for work in the Congo.

But while on vacation in New Mexico with her friend and her grandson,
their car was rear-ended at high speed by a tractor-trailer on
Interstate 40. The car rolled several times; all survived, but Kreidler
suffered broken ribs, back and neck injuries and other damage.

"Never, ever would I wish this on my worst enemy," she said.

Career-ending disability

At her brother's 2003 funeral, she said, Giants managing general
partner owner Peter Magowan saw her wearing a neck brace and using a
walker, and he asked her if there was anything he could do to help; she

Having been released from a hospital into physical therapy, she battled
with insurers to cover her treatment. About $50,000 in coverage ran out
fast, as did her savings; her 18 months of physical therapy ended when
the money did, not because she had recovered. Her Social Security
Disability Insurance application was rejected; she challenged the
rejection in court and lost.

Eager to go back to work because she loved nursing and was desperate to
pay her mounting bills, she returned to the Bay Area in 2005. But
constant pain made bending or lifting impossible, and numbness in her
hands prevented her from drawing blood or inserting an IV.

Her career as she had known it was finished. Destitute and unable to
work, too proud to turn to her family or friends for help, she soon was
sleeping in her car.

Someone eventually told her about St. Mary's Center, where she occupied
a cot for a few months while seeking General Assistance and other aid.
She still spent 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the streets in a rough part of
town: "I found for seniors, it's very dangerous. People will come up
and ask you for things or try to take things from you, or bully you.
.... It's a constant fear.

"Once something like this happens to you, it's like the end of your
life. ... Your life changes and it's all something new," she said.

A daily struggle

A busy life and satisfying career had become a daily struggle for
shelter, food, clothes and safety, and receiving public aid proved to
be "the merry-go-round of all merry-go-rounds" with months of paperwork
and waiting before she saw a dime.

On General Assistance, she was able to rent a room in a transitory
housing facility on San Pablo Avenue. From there, she moved this week
to a studio apartment in another Oakland facility for low-income

St. Mary's has set her up with legal aid to renew her SSDI application.
Until she gets it, she cannot receive state Medi-Cal coverage, so for
now she gets her prescriptions from a Berkeley clinic. She parcels out
every penny worth of food stamps to ensure she can eat, but she lacks
enough for proper nutrition and so recently discovered she is
borderline diabetic.

"I never thought that hopelessness could be this terrifying," she said.
"I always thought this country would provide Social Security if you
needed it. But I find these to be just words."

Yet the hopelessness has abated as her caseworker, Sister Mary Nolan,
helped her secure benefits and the apartment in which she now lives. In
return, Kreidler has focused her will upon helping St. Mary's Center
serve others like herself and upon ensuring the public cannot ignore

"The first thing that strikes someone is her fierce determination to be
independent, and also that she is willing and wanting to reach out and
help other people whom she sees suffering similar situations to hers,"
said center director Johnson.

St. Mary's needs millions to move to a new site this year, and Kreidler
on Monday clutched a stack of donation envelopes she intended to hand
out. She said she was tempted to finally do for the agency what pride
had kept her from doing for herself - asking Magowan's aid.

"There's trust and love in here and they give you hope, some kind of
hope that it's going to get better," she said. "That, to me, is what
life is all about - to care, to support, to help. If we don't do
that, why are we all here? We're all interconnected."

Yet she balked at first when encouraged to tell her family about what
befell her.

Her grandson, also in the car crash and now 11, is the light of her
life. When he and his mother came up from the Modesto area to visit
last year, St. Mary's staff managed to set her up somewhere else for a
few days so they would not know she was sleeping at the shelter.

"I want him to look at me like I'm not broken down and old," she said,
but instead like the grandma who used to take him fishing, bicycling
and on other adventures. "I want him to think of me and remember me
that way."

She would like to be able to give him a copy of the film of her 1964

"He's a tremendous golfer, he's going to be another Tiger Woods. ... I
want him to know that, 'If I can do this, you can do anything.'"

Contact Josh Richman at jrichman@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx