WALDRON, Mich. - Terry L. Rossi, 63, the beleaguered former president of Waldron Village Council, died of cancer Saturday in his home here.
Rossi, who was elected council president in March, 2002, served until February, 2004, when he lost his bid for re-election in the Hillsdale County village's primary election.
"He was doing his best to look out for the village, trying to prepare it for the future," Jeff Davis, a former council member, said.
A Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, Rossi was a substitute teacher in Michigan and Ohio from 2000 until about 2005. From the 1970s through the '90s, he owned and operated several businesses in beer distribution, the restaurant industry, and computer and health-related fields in Las Vegas and gold and silver mining in Idaho.
He later had a tumultuous time as village president, surviving a recall election in March, 2003, and serving two days in jail after pleading no contest in September, 2003, to impersonating a police officer. He was accused of pretending he was the police chief so he could slow traffic going through the community.
The sentence was part of a plea bargain in which charges of possession of a weapon by a felon and unlawful possession of a police badge were dismissed. Rossi had a felony burglary conviction from 1971 in California.
The 2003 recall against Rossi was initiated by a council member over the differing opinions on such issues as structuring a budget. Submitted by resident Fern Hall, the petition to recall him claimed he overstepped his authority. Village residents voted 82-72 to keep Rossi in office.
Council showed division at the time, especially when it came to the function of its president. Many on the seven-member board believed that issues such as structuring a budget should be left up to the full council.
In a 2003 Blade interview, he said in the absence of a village manager, the council president serves as the executive branch of government, giving whoever holds that position the authority to make limited decisions without council approval.
Later in 2003, Rossi was involved in several public disputes with council members, including a meeting that had to be adjourned after several council members walked out.
In 2004, he was on a six-month contract as the village's sewer lagoon operator. Council did not renew the contract in February, 2005.
In September, 2005, Rossi unsuccessfully ran for a seat on Waldron Village Council.
While on the job, Rossi's truck became stuck in mud at the lagoon site, damaging the ground and one of the village's three lagoons. He did not tell council of the incident, upsetting its members, village officials said at the time.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality cited the village, saying the ground and grassy areas at the lagoon site had to be improved. In his remarks to council, Rossi argued that he fixed the damage using his own money, and environmental quality officials told him it was all right to use gravel rather than grass to cover the area.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., Rossi received a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's in human resources. During the Vietnam War, Rossi was a Marine jet pilot for two tours from the time he enlisted until his honorable discharge with the rank of captain.
In the early 1960s, he married Brenda Hall. They later divorced. In the 1970s, he married Michelle Rossi. They also divorced.
"He was a wonderful man," said Maxine, his wife of seven years. "He helped so many people . He solved problems."
His memberships included the VFW, American Legion, and the Masonic Lodge.
Surviving are his wife, Maxine; sons, Jeffrey and Billy; daughter, Andrea Marshall; mother, Genevieve Rossi; brother, Danny; six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
At Rossi's request, his body was donated to the University of Michigan medical school.
There will be no visitation. A private memorial service will be held at a date yet to be set. Arrangements are by the Eagle Funeral Home, Waldron.