Rodney Wyckoff Ross Jr.
August 22, 1946
- September 09, 2017
|NEW PORT RICHEY, FL - Rodney W. Ross Jr. passed away at his home in New Port Richey, FL, on September 9, 2017. His life was defined by his honesty, courage, competitiveness and humor, and he was a beloved and inspiring husband, father, grandfather and friend.|
Rodney was born in Asbury Park, NJ, on August 22, 1946, and moved shortly thereafter with his parents, Rodney W. Ross Sr. and Harriet Ross, to his much loved state of Maine. Rodney spent his childhood in Brownville Junction, ME, riding horses and hunting on the Ross family farm and working at the marina on Schoodic Lake.
Rodney attended the University of Maine, where he was a proud member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and received a bachelor's degree in Marketing. He spent his summers working at the Essex and Sussex Hotel in Spring Lake, NJ, where he met his first wife, Dorothy ("Dotsie") Mellon. Rodney enlisted in the United States Army, and he and Dotsie spent a portion of his service in Germany before he was honorably discharged in 1971. Rodney and Dotsie settled in Bangor, ME, where Rodney returned to the University of Maine and received his M.B.A. in 1972. He began work as a sales representative and manager for Burroughs Corporation, and they welcomed two children, Brian and Suzanne.
In April of 1977, Rodney suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident that left him a quadriplegic. He approached his circumstances with the tenacity and sharp wit that he was known for throughout his life. Rodney relocated his family to Atlanta, GA, where he continued his career with Burroughs/Unisys. He also embarked on an important chapter of his life as a wheelchair athlete, going on to win numerous medals in swimming and table tennis in the national wheelchair games and setting a national class record in the 25-yard butterfly. In 1990, he was inducted into the Dixie Wheelchair Athletic Association Hall of Fame. Through wheelchair sports, Rodney met his second wife, Shelley Toler, with whom he shared 36 years of love, fun and friendship. Rodney was also proud of his work as a peer supporter at the Shepherd Center, helping and encouraging others faced with spinal cord injuries to live full lives.
Even after retiring as an athlete himself, Rodney remained an avid sports fan, attending everything from his children's high school events to Georgia Tech basketball games. He was a season ticket holder for the Atlanta Falcons for 38 years and achieved his lifelong goal of attending the Olympics, World Series, Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four Tournament.
Rodney and Shelley began spending time in Florida in 2003 and made the move permanent in 2007. Rodney embraced the easy living of the Florida lifestyle, basking in the sun, talking with the fishermen at the local pier, becoming an aquarium aficionado and enjoying the laughter of his four grandchildren as they splashed in the pool. Ever the inventor, Rodney came up with numerous adaptations to allow him to do things that didn't seem feasible, including taking up target shooting at the age of 69.
While Rodney will be greatly missed by his family and friends, they will continue to honor his legacy by trying to live by his motto - "Never Grow Up!"
Rodney is survived by his wife, Shelley; his son, Brian Ross and wife,Lisa and children, Grace and Blair; and his daughter, Suzanne Kleeblatt and husband, Peter and children, Allison and Colten.
Rodney requested that any contributions in his honor be made to the Paralyzed Veterans of America (www.pva.org).
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