is not similarities that create harmony, but the art of fusing
various elements that enrich life. -
Anonymous (one of Rose’s favorites)
In Time I See
College senior year book photo (1969)
Rose Ann Russo was born on September 25,
1947, in Norwich, Connecticut. At the age of eighteen months
she lost her right arm in an auto accident. This blessing
of fate shaped Rose’s life in a unique pattern of experiences
that challenged her to overcome the consequences of personal
tragedy. With faith and determination instilled by her mother,
Rose developed her own "different" identity.
One consequence of the above-elbow amputation
was the necessity for bone revision operations until Rose
physically ceased to grow. Another was a prosthesis with
a hook which drew so much negative attention during her
junior high years that she changed to an artificial hand
for high school. She dutifully wore a conventional prosthesis
until age thirty when she rebelled against what she perceived
as society’s pressure to imitate normalcy. She devoted the
next decade to developing a genuine identity. In that time
she learned that both function and comfort mattered and
the imitation meant limitation as far as what her creative
spirit longed to achieve. Her next prosthesis was a custom
made socket and attachment for depressing chord buttons
on an autoharp, the instrument she had played in college
with a ruler wrapped to her limb.
A Connecticut State fund for the handicapped
enabled Rose to attend Keuka College on Keuka Lake in Upstate
New York. She entered in the fall of 1965. The role model
her sister had provided as tutor to her and her brother
greatly influenced Rose’s decision to choose teaching as
a profession. She graduated in 1969, with a Bachelor of
Science Degree in Elementary Education. Rose accepted a
fifth grade position in the vicinity of scenic Keuka Lake
and married a local resident who also had one arm.
In 1973, Rose received from the University
of Rochester a Master of Arts Degree in Education with a
specialty in Reading. She taught fifth grade for five years.
During this period Rose and her team teaching partner developed
"The Comprehensive Reading Program for Intermediate Grades."
In 1974, the State Education Department in conjunction with
the New York State Reading Association recognized the innovative
management and instructional system as one of the top reading
programs in the state. At the request of the superintendent,
Rose then created the district’s first remedial reading
program at the junior senior high level. Her former team
teaching partner joined Rose again in 1977. They developed
the Tower Thinking, Writing, Reading Program which they
presented at the Ninth Annual Toward Humanizing Education
Conference sponsored by the New York State Education Department,
Division of Humanities and Arts Education.
Rose undertook the study of Spanish in
1980, because of her ever-widening interest in language
and culture. In 1987, she took a semester sabbatical to
earn a state teaching certificate in French. Upon returning
to the classroom, she taught both languages. In 1990, Rose
completed state certification in Spanish.
Outside of school, Rose served local Sheriff’s
Departments as a multi-lingual translator. She also helped
organize her church’s outreach program for Hispanic migrant
farm workers, whose faith and music she admired and participated
Rose’s interest in music had developed
in her early childhood. Her father was her primary model
of singer, songwriter, musician, performer, and entertainer,
both in the home and professionally. His influence pervaded
Rose’s life well beyond his untimely death when she was
ten. The private art lessons Rose took during the traumatic
period following his death proved a positive means of self-expression.
She continued taking lessons for six years. As a result
of developing artistic skills, Rose became art editor of
her high school newspaper and received from her senior classmates
the award of "class artist".
During her junior year of high school Rose
learned to play the cornet in the school band. She played
in numerous concerts including a performance in the New
England Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. Also during
the high school years, Rose attended revival meetings where
live gospel music revitalized her spirit and sparked her
enthusiasm for vocal harmony.
In college Rose took voice lessons. Accompanying
herself on the autoharp, she enjoyed singing and playing
in her free time. During the early Seventies, Rose sang
in a quartet at a small local church. At nearby prayer meetings
Rose developed a friendship with a singer/songwriter whose
example inspired her to create her own music. As a duo,
Rose and her friend performed their original songs in church
services and other spiritual gatherings.
Rose divorced in 1980, after ten stormy
years of marriage. She developed a serious relationship
with a fellow teacher. He also sustained injury due to an
accident. Together they designed and built a passive solar
house in a hill not far from Keuka Lake. Their enthusiasm
for acoustic music led them to attend bluegrass festivals
throughout the state and to invite musicians in the local
area to their home for jam sessions. At festivals and jams,
Rose practiced singing lead as well as harmony. Performing
with friends at civic events gave Rose experience as a band
member and organizer.
As a whole, Rose’s activities in the Eighties
reflected her many and varied interests. Horseback riding
was one of her favorite activities. The trainer at the farm
where Rose boarded her spirited mare designed an attachment
for the front of her saddle that enabled her to ride in
women’s rodeo. In 1986, "Rosie" along with her trainer’s
two daughters won the New York State Women’s Rodeo Championship
Team Penning Event. After several years of intense competition,
Rose and her horse retired to recreational trail blazing.
The experiences of sailing on Keuka Lake
and hunting on its surrounding hills reflected Rose’s deep
appreciation for nature. To explore different cultures,
Rose traveled to Europe and Mexico. She and her friends
particularly enjoyed sailing adventures in the Virgin Islands
and San Francisco Bay.
In the mid-Eighties, Rose bought property
adjacent to the solar house and there developed and established
The Friend Shop. She sold on consignment "herb specialties
and friend-made gifts" created by over thirty friends who
shared her interest in either herbal lore or arts and crafts.
The Friend Shop gave Rose valuable experience networking
and operating a small business.
In the early Nineties, basic incompatibilities
in her second long-term relationship precipitated another
stormy period in Rose’s life. Before and after the final
break-up, the process of self-assessment, coming to awareness,
and readjustment required renewed faith and determination.
During this period Rose produced a number of introspective
songs. She formed a collection of old and new compositions
and enlisted help to realize her new vision of recording
an album. In December of 1992, The Friend Shop became a
pre-recording studio where musically talented friends volunteered
their time to rehearse sixteen songs to be recorded at a
studio in Rochester, New York. Rose named her new business
Friendmade Music and her supportive friends, The Right Hand
In summary, Rose’s life developed along
three lines of growth: her personal life, her avocation,
and her vocation. Along the path of personal life, Rose’s
journey to wholeness as an individual and a woman was complicated
by a handicapping condition that confused her perception
of herself and other’s perceptions of her. Along the path
of avocation, Rose’s journey to fulfillment as an artist
was hampered by storms in her personal life and the ever-present
demands of her vocation. Along the path of the vocation,
education, Rose’s journey to self-respect was imperiled
by her own nature which always compelled her to seek innovative,
more functional ways of educating. Always being out on a
limb, Rose was vulnerable to non-acceptance and low self-esteem.
In 1993, circumstances raised Rose to a
new level of fulfillment. On the personal side, Rose’s music
so inspired artist Parkinson Pino that he created the engaging
cover for her CD and asked for her hand in marriage. They
wed on Armistice Day, November 11, 1993. As for her avocation,
on November 7, 1993, Rose finally released cassettes and
CDs entitled In Time I See, a pun on the collection’s
title song In tim a cy. Along the line of vocation, Rose
finally perfected her "Scholastic Solar System" of language
study. When the school board offered a retirement incentive
to teachers with twenty-five years of service, Rose accepted.
She retired in June of 1994.
The studio that recorded Rose’s music promoted
In Time I See and drew attention to Rose and
her accomplishments. As a result, she received acclaim in
local and regional press and in a TV interview on a cultural
affairs program featuring Rose’s song about being ‘handicapped’.
In time she saw herself in a position to inspire the physically
challenged to develop their talents and to educate the public
about what it means to be ‘physically challenged’. Consequently,
she launched a cause-related marketing campaign to benefit
nonprofit organizations whose purpose was to meet the needs
of the physically challenged. She first established a profit-sharing
relationship with the Rochester based National Association
of People with Disabilities. Rose shared with NAPD proceeds
of sales of In Time I See promoted by an ad
in their magazine, Challenge. Rose then arranged to benefit
a whole network of nonprofit organizations in an ever widening
field of service.
The fusion of her personal life, avocation,
and vocation into a whole lifestyle generated in Rose the
self-confidence to accept new challenges. When the first
retail store to offer In Time I See invited
Rose to perform in January of 1995, she armed herself with
the socket made earlier for the autoharp and an attachment
designed and fabricated for her by one of The Right Hand
Band. She began to practice on her dobro which was easier
to keep in tune than an autoharp and had a resonating sound
instrumental in supporting voice. She played and sang her
songs for a receptive audience in her first solo concert.
Time saw Rose Ann Russo develop and evolve,
and in time she saw herself emerge as a rose does: in her
own time and in her own way. Her unique pattern unfolded
in her music and continued to reveal itself. The rest is
passion drives, let reason hold the reins.
- Benjamin Franklin
College senior year book photo (1983)
Idealistic achievements are family traditions
on both sides of Park’s ancestry. On his maternal (English)
side was Great Uncle Woody who always used to say "I
not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I
can borrow." As the 28th President of the United States,
he (Woodrow Wilson) envisioned the League of Nations that
led to the creation of the United Nations. And then there
was Great . . . Great Grandpa (Richard) Kimball who came
to The New World on The Elizabeth in 1634 to settle
a "frontier" called Massachusetts. On Park’s paternal (Sicilian)
side was Great Uncle Tony. As the mastermind behind The
Brink’s Job, he (Antonio Pino) succeeded in pulling off
the greatest American heist of its time without harming
a soul. (Incidentally, his character was portrayed by actor
Peter Falk in The Brink’s Job movie.) And then there
was mysterious Great . . . Great Uncle Paulo Pino whose
accomplishments were worthy enough to allow him to be buried
in The Pantheon in Rome.
Park was born and lived in Massachusetts,
attended school in Rhode Island, and summered in Maine,
New Hampshire, and Vermont. His active imagination and creative
talents were recognized at an early age and channeled into
music and art. After attending a Quaker school, Moses Brown,
he completed secondary education at The Wheeler School with
an Independent Study in Art & Architecture in Italy.
This experience broadened his appreciation
of art, highlighted its significance to culture, and influenced
his decision to enter the Fine Arts program at Skidmore
College. There he continued to develop his Studio Art
while concentrating on Art History and Classical Studies.
He spent his junior year abroad at Temple University/Tyler
School of Art in Rome, pursuing Independent Studies in
all three disciplines, including research at the Vatican
Library Archives. He graduated from Skidmore to graduate
studies in Art History and Art Theory at Harvard University's
Park supported his education, travel,
and life as an independent artist in Newport, Boston,
Alaska, and Manhattan through work in various occupations
including substitute teacher, longshoreman, museum attendant,
artisan, and waiter. He balanced his life with volunteerism.
His cultural studies, work experiences,
and volunteer positions stimulated the sense of social
responsibility Park expressed in his art, traditional
in its communication of meaning. Moved to support humanitarian
causes through his personal creative efforts, Park founded
a nonprofit organization for the Arts and produced a one-man
show in SoHo benefiting two educational institutions and
an AIDS foundation. Ultimately, his sense of social responsibility
and desire to contribute his creativity to culture became
Creativity within Reason.
Park came to the Finger Lakes Region
to work on a commission resulting from one of his shows.
Rose's music so inspired Park that he created the engaging
image for the cover of her album and asked for her hand
in marriage. "His art brought him here, and my art made
him stay." Their home was on Italy Hill nearby Keuka Lake
in the legendary Finger Lake Region of Central New York.
Y-shaped Keuka Lake features the ancient confluence of
two watercourses. The courses of their lives merged there
in 1993 uniting their contributions in the Arts and Education
to the flow of culture. Pondering the question of cultural
renewal while washing dishes on their first Christmas,
Park conceived of The Cause Collection. The rest is history.
A highlight of Cause Collection exhibits
was the Be-In, Park's informative presentation of the
art and Rose's solo performance of the accompanying Bein'
Spiritual songs. An amputee since infancy, Rose was
able to play the dobro and autoharp with the help of her
custom-made prosthesis. Sharing the example of their personal
experiences, Rose & Park (who has a “reading disability”)
demonstrate the necessity of being both patient and persistent
in achieving personal goals as well as social change.
Concluding the Be-In was an open forum providing participants
an opportunity to interact with both artists and express
their own perspectives on cultural renewal.
Making a statement to make a difference,
Rose & Park began their Cause Collection tour in the fall
of 1996. They brought their program to Skidmore College
and Finger Lakes Community College. What followed can
be best understood from the words of their Holiday letters:
Message of Hope '97
Once again it's time to get our Christmas
cards out by Martin Luther King Day, a tradition that
has many benefits, as you can imagine, and special meaning
for us as we live our dream. We never dreamed that in
'97 we would learn such an important lesson. The year
began with excursions to share The Cause Collection with
students at a number of educational institutions in Rhode
Island (the State of Hope). There we learned our message
of hope through self-awareness and social responsibility
resonated with secondary schoolers as well as college
students, friends, and family. We hoped to participate
in the University of Oklahoma, Norman, “Get a Grip”
week in February, but thankfully things were postponed,
allowing us to begin work early on cutting the new CD
that accompanies The Cause Collection, Bein' Spiritual.
In the spring we brought our message
to Herkimer Community College and Hobart & William Smith
Colleges. We also visited prospective venues in Manhattan
where things looked hopeful for the fall. Our theme of
hope carried us throughout the summer, for The Cause Collection
was available to the general public (mostly tourists)
at a local Greek Revival Mansion, Esperanza (Hope). There
we learned our message resonated with people of all ages
and origins while also serving students of neighboring
colleges. Consequently, we were encouraged to share our
message online by the fall, but our momentum was abruptly
In early September, Rose became ill with
what appeared to be a kidney stone problem. To make a
long story short, she began the month as a seemingly healthy
forty-nine year old and ended the month as a fifty year
old with advanced osteoporosis, having the bones and posture
of a woman in her nineties. Unfortunately, that was the
good news. The bad news was that multiple myeloma (bone
marrow cancer) was the cause. The doctors told us we'd
be lucky if Rose lived another six months. Appropriately,
Bein' Spiritual was released on the day we got
Thank God we experienced all that hope.
What goes around comes around, so with hope, prayer, faith,
strength of will and community, and love, of course, things
are improving day by day. The medical industry's traditional
methods disagreed with Rose's chemistry. We're quickly
learning the counter culture of alternative medicine and
its advantages, thanks to family, friends, neighbors,
and the kindly Mennonites who've settled in our region.
It seems so many people have direct experience with cancer
and a need for alternative treatments these days.
So, with a renewed sense of the value
of hope, we carry on. They say Rose is in "some sort of
remission," but they don't know how long it will last.
Meanwhile, our message of hope is quite a bit more fortified
with experience, and we hope to share it online soon at
www.CauseCollection.com. Or if you prefer to "turn off,
tune out, and drop in,". . . And so we begin this year
in another state of hope, praying all your dreams come
true while keeping the lid on Pandora's box.
Please keep us in your prayers. Love,
Rose & Park
P.S. Patsy will be 33 years old on St.
Patrick's Day. Each human year is 3 - 3.5 horse years,
so she's not only a centaur, but also a centenarian, and
we still have much to learn from her!
TIME TO LIVE & PASS WITH CARE
'98 & '99
We dreamed of contacting you once again
with our traditional Christmas mailing around Martin Luther
King Day, but we were entertaining circumstances beyond
our control - acknowledging Thy will be done. Early last
May we celebrated surpassing Rose’s prognostic "deadline"
at the Rose Cultural Festival. Many expected this event
to be her memorial. Rather, we chose to perceive it as
an opportunity for Rose to actively attend her own festive
funeral services and we greatly appreciate those who came
to celebrate with us. When this jubilee was over, we soon
realized what followed was indeed ‘borrowed time’. Creating
time to receive such loving support made our experience
a cross between This Is Your Life, It’s A Wonderful
Life, and Life Is Beautiful. It was seemingly
God sent since it came with so many blessings.
So, as Rose was declared "NO LONGER IN
REMISSION" in August, bedridden in September, and subsequently
pronounced "IN THE FINAL STAGE" for a great many stages
thereafter, we continued to recreate our life to be in
the present here at home and for the hereafter. All in
all, nineteen months of heightened intuition, last works,
and lasting memories reshaped our lives. We managed to
remain in pretty good shape for the shape that we were
in. A new meaning to our lives was the understanding that
nowhere did our lives have more meaning than here together
now. In time we saw that we had nothing but time, lifetime,
to enjoy the rapture of our relationship with life itself.
We took time to honor the afterlife in
accordance with our way of life. Naturally, Rose’s death
on the morning of Tuesday, March 2nd was nearly imperceptible.
Although her spirit remains, by afternoon her physical
remains were interred in a private ceremony, laid to rest
out in our pasture within a circular grove of pines we
had named "Heaven." In this way, it can be said that she
remains on Earth as she is in Heaven. An official approved
the arrangements by stating, "Highly unconventional, but
legal", and I affirmed, "Sounds just like my wife".
Thank you for your role in the many networks
that helped make Rose’s passing such a beautiful experience
for us. We envision another jubilee! Come celebrate her
life here at home . . . In honor of Rose’s appreciation
of/for originality and spirit, we encourage your meaningful
expressions and request that your active participation
help create this eventful time. Please realize that your
only limitation is vision, not supervision, so we’re anticipating
quite a celebration.
More good times, Yoshi lived a dog’s
life and passed away in September. He’d been 10 for the
past 5 years and it finally caught up with him. Patsy
reached her 34th birthday this St. Patrick’s Day! Oddly
enough, she’s as healthy as a horse since we retired her
saddle. Our website, www.CauseCollection.com, is developing
into an ideal venue for our creativity and vision. I’m
now engaged in a good deal of "homework" that Rose & I
designated for this time. I’m also exploring opportunities
both here and back in Manhattan that will further our
mission and message. Please recognize there’s still much
to learn for the living. However, know that we are alive,
we have a lifetime to live, and it’s what we make it.
Keep becoming, Rose & Park
P.S. Just before she passed, I asked Rose if there is
anything more we can DO? After some thought, she replied,
God Bless our community and thank you
for your loving support during our nineteen month journey.
Rose now enjoys eternal life, having lived and passed
as she chose. She wishes for you to celebrate her life
as you choose! "The Spirit’s a source, the Will’s a
force, and the Choice is your". You may choose to honor
her memory by contributing to this scholarship fund
in her name: The Russo/Swem
Community Service Scholarship Fund.
NOTE: Rose received a Certificate of
Merit from New York’s Governor George E.Pataki on April
. . . upon being recognized for
your invaluable contributions to communities within Yates
County for which you are paid tribute at the "Rose Cultural
Festival" held in your honor. As a teacher, musician,
volunteer and resident of Yates County, you are applauded
and complimented for your many accomplishments that enhance
the lives of others. As a Keuka College graduate, you
are recognized by your fellow alumni as someone who is
a source of pride through achievement in artistry, service
to others, benevolence toward society, and strength of
As a “Perspectivist" (a.k.a. an "Artologist”),
Park continues the work of The Cause Collection and enjoys
developing other projects for Creativity within Reason.
He spends his time between The Finger Lakes Region and
Manhattan engaged in interdisciplinary collaborations
including volunteer work for the State of New York and
the Federal Government.
future does not belong to those who are content with today
. . . it will belong to those who can blend passion, reason,
and courage in a personal commitment. -