FRANKFORT – Terri Rossi.
Frankfort's former first lady. Longtime athletic secretary for Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210. Honorary captain of the Lincoln-Way East football team.
Wife, mother, grandmother.
No matter what title Terri wore, it always represented selfless generosity.
"She was a great woman," said Terri's son, Drake Rossi of Chicago. "She was my hero. She would do anything to help anybody. That's just the way she was. Every one of my siblings knew it, too. She was the first one we went to if we ever had an issue. No matter what she was doing, she would stop and help us."
Terri's other son, Brandon Rossi of Frankfort, agreed and said his two children, ages 6 and 3, especially benefited from their grandmother's presence and influence. They always had fun, whether they spent the day in her pool or engaged in any number of fun activities that Terri planned.
"And I got to hear their stories at the end of the day," Brandon said. "She was a beautiful mother and grandmother. I couldn't ask for more in life."
Amanda Marshall of Orland Hills, Terri's daughter, felt Terri connected with her grandchildren in simple but meaningful ways, ones specific to each child. For instance, Amanda's 15-year-old daughter, Gianna Marshall, has fond memories of daylong shopping trips in Oak Brook with Terri.
On the other hand, Amanda's son, Chase Marshall, 17, often helped his grandmother work the computer programs for athletic tournaments. When Terri was ill, Chase, who Amanda called "an old soul," would sit at her bedside, talking.
Terri did the same with her own children when they were young, Amanda said. It didn't matter if they participated in swimming, wrestling, soccer or football. Terri jumped in with both feet and helped with both hands.
"It didn't matter how busy she was or how spread thin she was," Amanda said. "She always told everyone, 'Sure, no problem. I can do that.' "
Ray Rossi of Frankfort, Terri's husband, saw similar qualities in Terri years ago, as when he met her for the first time in eighth grade. Besides being pretty, although Terri didn't consider herself pretty, Terri also was popular, which Ray attributes to Terri's openness and acceptance.
"She would be friends to people from all walks of life," Ray said.
Ray and Terri began dating as young adults after they reconnected while riding the same commuter train to work. Even in their early years of marriage, Terri's helping spirit ruled the day.
"She worked two jobs to put me through law school," Ray said.
Ray said Terri worked for Allstate and Blue Cross Blue Shield. She later worked for District 210, four years at Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox and then 11 years at Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort.
Although Terri wasn't a fan of politics, Ray said she supported him when he ran for mayor of Frankfort, and she worked hard to help him get elected. Ray said he served as mayor from 1993 to 2005.
"She would garner support from neighbors, Lincoln-Way people and other people she knew," Ray said. "She was always behind the scenes helping. To her, the recognition wasn't all that important. It was the results."
When it came to results, Terri also was quite the handyman. She not only could reattach a fan belt to a lawnmower, but Terri could repair the refrigerator as well as the swimming pool pump, Ray said.
"She didn't mind getting dirty weeding around the house," Ray said. "She was the general contractor for two additions we put on the house. The second turned out to be a man cave in deference to me, but it was all her doing. She helped build a couple of patios."
Some people take it easy in retirement. Not so with Terri.
"When she retired from Lincoln-Way, she unilaterally decided that she would take over the banquet functions at Juliet's, a Joliet restaurant/bar owned by our son, [Carmen Rossi]," Ray said in an email. "She refused to take any money for the job that she would work 2 to 3 days a week."
But no story on Terri, who was 63 when she died Feb. 4, would be complete without mentioning her love for animals. Ray said Terri owned horses as a child, but although that wasn't the case in adulthood, she did have a fair number of dogs.
Just how many dogs did Terri own through the years? Ray offered this clue. She'd named her children alphabetically – Amanda, Brandon, Carmen and Drake – and then began naming her dogs where the children left off.
Terri's last dog was a mastiff named Icon.
"She would have been a great veterinarian," Ray said.
• To feature someone in "An Extraordinary Life," contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.