Wednesday, February 19, 2020

In Memory of David Rossi, 1957-2003

Emily with her godfather, Dave (Jan 1996)
It was seventeen years ago today we lost David Rossi. Only the good die young.

Dave grew up outside Pittsburgh and studied Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh.  His name is inscribed in the Omicron Delta Kappa Walk, a stone walkway between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel, in honor of being named Senior of the Year in 1979.

I had the great misfortune to meet Dave around the time Pitt won the national championship, the Pirates won the World Series, and the Steelers won the Super Bowl.  He was humble and softspoken, but not about the "City of Champions."

We roomed together in Brooklyn Heights and both worked our first "real" jobs for the Chase Manhattan Bank, taking the subway each morning under the East River to the basement of Chase Manhattan Plaza.  Our training floor included 200 recent college grads from all over the country and we fell in with a great group of friends whose mission it was to discover Manhattan.  Since many of our colleagues lived on the Upper West Side, Dave decided that he and I had to purchase "crazy hats" so we could ride the 7th Avenue Line without trouble in the wee hours of the morning back to Brooklyn Heights. "Wear it low, look crazy, and never make eye contact," he told me. Good advice.

Dave invited me home the first Thanksgiving we roomed together to meet his family and girlfriend.  His mother served a huge, delicious Italian meal, and I remember thinking, "This is unusual for Thanksgiving--but nice."  Then Dave's mom cleared the table and served an entire traditional Thanksgiving turkey meal.  He just looked at me and said, "Now you know why I have trouble losing weight."

Dave and I also roomed together the first year at the Harvard Business School. He introduced me to the HP-12C, chocolate-covered pretzels, and Isaac Payton Sweat. He convinced me that Harry Truman was the only person in history who could have taken over the world.  He warned me--based on his obsession the previous summer with Louis L'Amour novels--never to carry a knife unless I was prepared to use it.  More good advice.

In the time I knew David Rossi, though, all he ever really wanted to do was go into space.  He might have been an astronaut except for his poor eyesight.  Between senior positions at Spacehab and Orbital Sciences, he got close.  Even when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as Dave lay dying of cancer, he never lost his optimism or passion for the final frontier.

At Dave's funeral in Washington, D.C., there were six of us who were asked to speak.  As we chatted beforehand, I realized we all believed the same thing: David Rossi was our best friend.

We were all correct.

Rest in peace, my friend.

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