Latest News

Fountain dedication a fitting tribute for late Downtown Merced booster

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY LISA JAMES
Lori Rossi Gallo, left, and her sister Denise Rossi, smile as they listen to friends and city leaders recount memories of their late mother Susie Rossi before the Merced Christmas parade on Saturday. The fountain in Bob Hart Square was dedicated to Susie Rossi on Saturday in honor of her dedication to Merced. Susie Rossi was also responsible for reviving the long defunct Christmas Parade before she died.
December 5th, 2009
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY LISA JAMES Lori Rossi Gallo, left, and her sister Denise Rossi, smile as they listen to friends and city leaders recount memories of their late mother Susie Rossi before the Merced Christmas parade on Saturday. The fountain in Bob Hart Square was dedicated to Susie Rossi on Saturday in honor of her dedication to Merced. Susie Rossi was also responsible for reviving the long defunct Christmas Parade before she died. December 5th, 2009 Merced Sun-Star

Much like the fountain now named for her, Susie Rossi was a bubbly, energetic person who gave her all for the community she deeply loved.

This is a capsule description of the late special events coordinator for the Merced Downtown Association gathered in recollections from her two daughters, a longtime friend and a city official who knew her well.

The fountain in Bob Hart Square on West Main Street in downtown Merced was built in 1980 as part of early efforts to revitalize the town's central core. It was dedicated Saturday afternoon to Rossi, just before Merced's annual Christmas Parade.

"She was just the happiest, most lovely person I've ever known," Denise Rossi, her youngest daughter, said. "She was always happy to see you. She was the first and best cheerleader I ever had."

She simply was happy seeing other people happy, Denise Rossi added.

Susie Rossi and her husband, Tony, came to Merced in 1979. He was a sports broadcaster and the couple owned KUBB and KLOQ radio stations until selling them in the early 1980s. Susie Rossi sold radio advertising and soon developed a community events calendar that was sold by subscription to local restaurants and other organizations. She also chaired fund-raisers and helped with fashion shows and dinners at Our Lady of Mercy School

"She probably didn't realize this (calendar-advertising-promotion) was training her for the special events coordinator position," Lori Rossi Gallo, her oldest daughter, said. "She wanted downtown to be a destination and to become a bridge between North and South Merced. Her job was to bring people downtown. She loved this town and especially the downtown; she had a passion for it."

Rossi died Sept. 16, 2003 at the age of 62 after a five-year battle with cancer. She worked for the Merced Downtown Association from 1985 to 1999 when she retired. She was instrumental in reviving the Christmas Parade in 1995 after its 25-year absence.

"She was watching the Thanksgiving Macy's parade and the Rose Bowl parades on television and asked 'why aren't we doing this?'" Lori Gallo said.

"My mom always made people feel welcome and at ease. That's what was so inspirational about her and still resonates with people. She did it day in and day out and people responded to that. It showed she cared and they cared about her, too," Lori Gallo said.

Terry Vargas, owner of A Blooming Affair Floral and Gift on West Main Street, knew Rossi for 25 years and provided some vivid recollections of her late friend.

"There's not a word to describe Susie. She was a never-ending ball of energy," Vargas said. "She never stopped. There was never any negativeness with her. She's the reason for downtown, the one who tried to keep downtown on the map. She was our speaker for many, many years. She would be so proud of what's happening now."

Lori Gallo said her mom loved to daydream; she got some of her best ideas daydreaming and drew inspiration from many sources.

"She never thought she was perfect and didn't have negative things to say about people. She was genuinely kind and funny, always glad to see people," Denise Rossi said.

Frank Quintero, the city of Merced's redevelopment coordinator and formerly a city planner, remembers working with Rossi.

"Susie had energy which really motivated downtown merchants," Quintero said. "Day by day, she would walk into the stores and check in with people. She was a great events organizer."

Besides the fountain, there's something else that will remind people of Rossi. Her "daily driver" was a pink and white 1957 Nash Metropolitan single-seat sports car which took its place in Saturday's parade. Rossi loved Christmas, Santa Claus, dolls, children, hot rods and classic cars, country-western and oldies music, along with dances like the twist and jitterbug, Lori Gallo said.

Denise Rossi doesn't think her mother ever judged anybody and was accepting of everyone.

"I will always remember her huge laugh. She had a presence about her, a charisma and genuine goodwill. She supported a lot of people and was their biggest fan."

"There was no pretense about her, she could laugh at herself," Lori Gallo said. "She knew everyone by name and would ask what they needed. She always had a nice, kind word to say. She believed in people helping people."

Denise Rossi said her mother was always trying to bring people together and create happy memories -- something kept alive by the fountain now bearing her name in the heart of the downtown she deeply loved.

  Comments