The memorial service was Monday for former Gov. Albert D. Rosellini, who died Oct. 10 in Seattle at age 101.
There is the Highway 520 bridge, of course. The scholarship at John F. Kennedy Catholic High School. And the many politicians who were inspired and guided by him to serve with compassion and warmth.
But to Caitlyn Ross, former Gov. Albert D. Rosellini’s legacy is as the great-grandfather who taught her how to do the twist, who paid $5 for a 10-cent cup of lousy lemonade, who rode around his Vashon Island home on an electric scooter equipped with a “GOV” license plate, and who wore checkered Vans.
“Some people remember the political grandpa,” said Ross, 18, said after a funeral Mass for Rosellini at Seattle’s St. James Cathedral on Monday. “But I remember the Vashon grandpa.”
Rosellini died Oct. 10 at age 101.
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More than 600 people filled the cathedral, including an entire section of politicians, from current Gov. Chris Gregoire to former Govs. Booth Gardner, Dan Evans, Mike Lowry, John Spellman and Gary Locke, now the U.S. ambassador to China.
Said Lowry: “Al was just one of the nicest people you ever met. He was a very good governor and he was also a very good guy. And you don’t always get those two together.”
There were those who had hoped to be governor, like Dino Rossi.
“I’ve known Gov. Rosellini since the day I walked into politics,” Rossi said. “He was always very gracious to me. There’s no way I would miss this.”
Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels wore a red-rose lapel pin from Rosellini’s successful 1956 run for governor. The pins taught people how to pronounce his name: “ROSE-ellini” and not “ROSS-ellini.”
And then there was Kaeden Kalfaolu, 11, whose grandmother, Vivian, was Rosellini’s companion for the past six years, until she died six months ago.
Kaeden told of visiting Rosellini’s office in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.
“There’s pictures of, like, Clinton and Kennedy,” he said. “Pictures of his family and when he was a baby.”
Rosellini’s casket, draped in a cream and blue cloth, was escorted to the front of the church by five state troopers while the church choir — all 50 of them volunteered — sang “For All the Saints.”
In his homily, the Rev. William Treacy recalled watching Rosellini attend Mass with his mother, and how he would wait as she prayed before each statue, then dutifully put money in each collection box.
“His mother was a kind, compassionate woman who taught him by words and actions how to be passionate for others,” Treacy said. “Compassion for others is the legacy he leaves.”
Locke, who flew from China with his wife, Mona, started his words to the gathering by reading a letter from President Obama to the Rosellini family: “Michelle and I will continue to hold you in our thoughts and prayers.”
Locke went on to tell the gathering of the many things he had in common with his friend. He and Rosellini shared a birthday — albeit 40 years apart. Both were the sons of immigrants, and both were elected governor at age 46.
“[Rosellini] accomplished more than all of the governors and elected officials assembled here, combined,” Locke said. “He championed those who had no champion. The poor, children and the elderly had no better friend than Al Rosellini.
“… I guess you couldn’t live forever,” Locke said. “But you sure as heck tried.”
Daughter Lynn Rosellini recalled how, as a child, she was baffled at how “everywhere we went, people were approaching him and thanking him for something.”
“… I never knew who these people were,” she said. “I just knew that they loved Dad.”
And yet, it was sometimes hard to have a father who seemed to belong to everyone else, she said.
“I sometimes wish he had been a more engaged father,” she said. “But when he was there, it was always fun.”
Son Albert Rosellini Jr. spoke of his father’s “basic connectedness to the human race,” and how, in his final months, he was unable to get out in his white Cadillac and see people.
“Life was unbearable because it had lost meaning for him,” Rosellini said. “But just as we are celebrating his life, he is celebrating yours.”
At the reception at the Bell Harbor Conference Center, mourners passed table after table of political keepsakes and photographs:
Rosellini pinning a corsage on his mother on Mother’s Day, 1961. At the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair with Elvis Presley, who was holding a ham. Sitting on the back of a convertible with JFK.
Inside the reception was table after table of food with a distinctly Italian bent: tortellini, cured meat and cheese, among other things. Frank Sinatra’s “The Summer Wind” and “Come Fly With Me” played from the speakers.
Not long before he died, Rosellini asked his daughter, Jane, how old he was.
“One hundred and one,” she told him.
“Oh,” he said. “Then I guess it’s time to go.”
His great-granddaughters said he will be buried in his beloved checkered Vans.
Nicole Brodeur: 206-464-2334