Obituary: Dr. Rosario Russell Scalise Ross

Intellectual, physician, animal lover, eccentric

Rosario Russell Scalise Ross was born August 3, 1951 in Chicago and died peacefully in his sleep on December 20, 2018 at the age of 68.  

He never knew his mother. She abandoned him as an infant. Instead he grew up in a loving home that consisted of his road construction supervisor father, the late Anthony Scalise, and his Sicilian grandmother. Inhaling the rich aroma of a spicy spaghetti sauce simmering on a stove anywhere would stir up fond memories of his childhood sitting in his grandmother’s kitchen.

People who spent time in the Village might recognize him as a short, long gray-haired, bushy-bearded eccentric, fond of wearing several watches at a time and hanging numerous pens off the stretched collar of his T-shirt. The bumper of his red Toyota Yaris was creatively held in place with strips of silver duct tape. As a patron of 42nd Street Bagel, he often sat outside with a group of friends engaged in intellectual conversation while sharing his whole-wheat bagel with the sweet sparrows who came to visit with him.

In many ways he was a living, walking, encyclopedia, brilliantly able to discuss almost any subject, his friends agreed. Favorites included the discovery of new items in the universe, both seen and unseen; updated treatments of infectious diseases; the most recent archeological digs of ancient cultures; Lauren Bacall zingers; fully memorized lyrics of the mathematician/songwriter/performer Tom Lehrer; humorous dialogue in current and past sitcoms; and genetic tendencies in every species of dogs and cats. He tended to be a hoarder. If someone showed an interest in any topic, he would dig out an article from his collection and bring it to share with friends at the bagel shop.

He loved and demonstrated kindness to all the earth’s little creatures, his friends shared. Rather than kill a rat he’d spend hours trying to capture and relocate it. He was especially fond of his cats. If he needed to use his laptop while a kitty was napping on the keyboard, he would graciously wait so as not to disturb it. His book bag was often packed with cat lover books, cartoons, and calendars to share with other enthusiasts.

“One day he found a homeless person sleeping in a car with a cat,” his friends said. “He offered one of his bedrooms to shelter both of them. Because of his kindness and generosity, he allowed the person and cat to remain in his home for more than seven years. He demonstrated a great talent for listening. He never seemed to pass judgment on people. He will be greatly missed.”

Rosario Russell Scalise graduated Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1972, attended Rutgers University’s UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey, and Austin’s University of Texas Medical School. He had worked as a lab attendant, a mechanical engineer, a therapist, and finally as a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Hospital Fontana for years. 

Of all his accomplishments, he was perhaps most proud of his role as a single father to his only child, Raphael.

In lieu of a traditional memorial, friends and acquaintances are invited to stop by the front of 42nd Street Bagel, at 225 Yale Ave., Claremont, on Friday, March 22 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to celebrate with shared stories involving Dr. Ross, and to sign a memory book to be given to his son. Feel free to bring well-behaved pets on a leash. 

In lieu of flowers, donations of unopened, dry pet food will be collected to give to Inland Valley Humane Society in his memory.

[Editor’s note: This obituary was written by Constance Cassinelli.]


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