Not much notice of Stan Rosenberg's impending resignation could be seen in sleepy — liberal — downtown Amherst around noon yesterday. That is, until word started to get out.

The Black Sheep cafe on Main Street has been in town for 32 years, just about the same amount of time that Rosenberg has been in the legislature, first as a state representative, and for the past 21 years as a senator.

Nick Seamon owns the Black Sheep. He's a Rosenberg supporter, and said the senator was an asset for Amherst and the whole state.

"I was thrilled that he was the president of the Senate, because he's from western Mass., and you know, we usually get forgotten out here," Seamon said.

Patron Patter Fields had expected to vote for Rosenberg in this year's elections. She said she's a little angry that it came to this.

"There's not a polite way to say what I want to say. I don't understand how he could have been so taken in and made such a bad mistake," Fields said.

As Fields shook her head, her anger dissolved into sadness and she fought back tears.

"I've written to him. I live in Northfield, Mass. He's extremely responsive and writes personal letters back."

Down the street at Amherst Books, long-time resident Kati George was stunned when she heard about Rosenberg's resignation.

"Oh that's really ... oh I'm so sad," she said, "because we were really behind him, and were expecting to support him and felt kinda bad the situation he was in was very complicated, but I don't think we ever thought there was mal intention."

Quite the contrary, said Mike Packard. The local area realtor has known Rosenberg for years and said especially in the gay community, Rosenberg's a hero because of his strong advocacy for bringing gay marriage to Massachusetts.

"I don't think there's anyone in Massachusetts who is gay who doesn't owe Stan a debt of gratitude for his hard work on that issue," Packard said.

It's a sad irony that it was Rosenberg's own marriage to Bryon Hefner that brought the much-admired and beloved politician down, said former colleague and state representative Ellen Story.

"It's a tragedy. I don't use that word very often. But this is a real tragedy. He was about as fine a public figure as you can have. And he dedicated his entire life to this. And to have it end this way is tragic."

On my way back to Boston, I stopped at Stan Rosenberg's apartment complex. Instead of the expected TV crews, it was absolutely empty. During 20 years of reporting in Amherst, I'd interviewed Rosenberg there numerous times, the last time when he was suffering through treatment for cancer. And on that day, Bryon Hefner was at his side, taking care of him.

Today, at 5 p.m., Stan Rosenberg will resign from political office after 31 years.