“One thing I’d say about Dad is he had a great love for kids,” said Dolan Rossi. “It didn’t matter if they were kids that were doing everything right. Even the kids that maybe society said were a little rough around the edges, Dad loved them and cared about them. He was disciplined, and he needed them to be on the right track. And he would give those kids every opportunity.”
Douglas Marshall Rossi, a widely respected and long-tenured veteran of the Minnesota school system and a former teacher and superintendent of the Brooklyn Center School District, passed away April 2, following a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 82.
Rossi, a Mt. Iron native and future Brooklyn Center resident, had a long and storied career in education, marked by an elementary education degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and beginning as a sixth-grade teacher and bus driver at Earle Brown Elementary 1956 to 1959. He then transitioned to a two-year run as principal of Garden City Elementary School before becoming principal of Brooklyn Junior High from 1961 to 1963.
Rossi took on numerous roles 1963 to 1966 in the Osseo School District, such as an athletic director and director of transportation, before adding superintendent to his curriculum vitae. Rossi served as superintendent of the Pine Island School District from 1966 to 1968, and then for the Little Falls School District from 1968 to 1971.
It wasn’t until 1971 that he made his final and longest-lasting career move as the superintendent of the Brooklyn Center School District, coming full circle as he spent the last 22 years of his career where he started.
“He’s kind of a legend in Brooklyn Center,” said current Brooklyn Center Supt. Mark Bonine. “He was a real icon in the community. Just a very strong leader in the district and for Brooklyn Center itself.”
‘A humble man’
Rossi, the only son of Alcide and Bunny Rossi, was born June 22, 1934, in Virginia, Minnesota. A graduate of Mt. Iron High School, Rossi was a gifted athlete in football, basketball and track, though he kept his past athletic milestones from his children Cyndi, Scott, Dolan and Gina.
“He had many accomplishments athletically that he never shared with us kids,” said Dolan. “He was quite accomplished, but growing up, he never shared that with us, because he didn’t think it was important anymore. And he didn’t want that in any way to interfere with the path his kids took.”
The elder Rossi married Joyce Niemi in 1955, and together they raised their four children in the northwest suburbs of Hennepin County, with all four going to school in the Brooklyn Center School District. Dolan noted that while his father was firm in raising his kids with discipline, he was never overbearing.
“He was a humble man,” said Dolan. “He disciplined the kids, but whenever we did something majorly wrong, he would so calmly tell us what the consequences were. He never yelled at us, he was a very good father. Very loving guy.”
After retiring in 1993, Rossi and his wife spent their later years traveling and spending time with family.
“Most of his retirement was spent up at a family cabin on Lake Vermillion that his mom and dad started,” said Dolan. “My mom and dad became stewards of that property, so they most of their time up there in the summers fishing, sitting on the dock, maintaining that property. Mom and Dad traveled. They have a lot of grandkids. They did move up to Duluth for several years, and they had a condo that overlooked the harbor.”
In his final years, Rossi suffered from the effects of Alzheimer’s, eventually spending his last days at a memory care facility in Rogers. Every step of the way, however, his wife Joyce was always at his side.
“Even as he died here of Alzheimer’s, he couldn’t talk anymore, but when Mom came into the room, his face would light up, and she would light up,” said Dolan.
Douglas Rossi is survived in death by his wife Joyce, four children, 14 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Contact Christiaan Tarbox at [email protected]