Steven Cozza Giro Bello Classic This Rides For You, Dino Garcia

Filed under: On the Road Again — admin @ 4:00 pm

June 24, 2011

A Triubte To My Friend Dino Garcia, by Gene Berman

From the below, you can very clearly discern what motivates me to raise massive money to cure what took Dino’s life and complicates mine. This should NEVER happen! And because of your incredible generosity, it may not, again. Thank you very much!!

Dino Garcia-Rossi’s Obit:

Dino Garcia-Rossi, a former biologist at Bodega Marine Lab, avid cyclist and father of three young boys, died June 17 after a five-year battle with cancer. He was 47.

Born Dino Garcia in El Salvador, he came to the United States while in high school to escape the civil war ravaging his homeland.

“He fell in love with California and his bicycle,” said his wife, Heather Garcia—Rossi, an English teacher at Montgomery High School.

Though he spoke little English, at the age of 17 Garcia-Rossi rode solo from Portland to Southern California. His love affair with the natural world blossomed.

After graduating from high school, he followed a family member to Georgia where got a degree in business as his father – a doctor who owned coffee farms in El Salvador – expected. Both his parents were killed in a car accident while visiting Georgia for his graduation from Berry College,

He returned to California and for a time stayed with his sister in Windsor. With his English still improving, he began taking classes at the Santa Rosa Junior College.

“He learned English by listening to Beatles songs,” his wife said.

While studying at the JC, he decided that he would not go into business, as he father had planned, but would follow his passion for exploration of the natural world and become a biologist.

“He loved everything about how the natural world works,” Heather Garcia-Rossi said.

It was at the JC that he also met his future wife, Heather Rossi. She followed him to U.C. Davis and eventually he got a job at the Bodega Marine Lab, studying everything from invasive species to fish genetics. He went on to receive his master’s degree in ecology from Sonoma State.

The couple made their home in Santa Rosa, and Garcia-Rossi did all he could to instill within his three sons – now ages 12, 9 and 5 – the same sense of wonder he felt about nature.

“It was completely normal for us to have the life cycle of some creature in our kitchen,” she said. “He thought it was really someone’s most important job to know about how the world works.”

In addition to cycling, he was an avid surfer and guitar player.

As his work in Bodega was ending, he was offered a job as a researcher at the National Cancer Institute in Washington, D.C.

A short time later, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, on the day his youngest son was due to be born. He went through a series of bone marrow transplants that gave him spells of remission.

Throughout his illness, Garcia-Rossi showed immense bravery and always put others first, his wife said.

“He was amazing,” she said. “He was the most curious person I ever met.”

Services will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 3, at Congregation Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Road in Santa Rosa.

A fund for his children has been established at the Westamerica Bank branch in Montgomery Village (424 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa CA 95405, phone: (707)576-3670).

And how I came to know and admire Dino:

I only came to know the Garcia-Rossi ‘s through Dino’s and my mutual diagnosis with MM in early 2007. At that time, Heather was a welcome pillar of support for Enid (my wife) as she was attempting to come to grips with a life-changing event. Generosity of spirit has been a continuous and laudable hallmark of the Garcia-Rossi family.

When I had stabilized and started to live with my diagnosis, was when my friendship with Dino began — he spurred my interest in cycling. I warned Dino that I was a slug on wheels, and that I did not want to hold him back. He laughed and said we should just “enjoy the ride.” Dino knew every scenic and strenuous route in the area and relished in finding the “warm-up hills” and the “one last hills” on each ride.

One morning, we were out in the Dry Creek Valley — instead of taking the usual turn to head us back toward Healdsburg on West Dry Creek, Dino suggested that we continue on Dry Creek to the state park at the end of the road. Once there, he led the way as we started the (until then unknown-to-me) ascent to the Lake Sonoma overlook. As was the routine on any hill climb of significance, Dino would climb ahead, double back, to see if I was OK, then climb again. On the third return, when truthfully, I would have happily and as easily hopped off the bike, to head it back down the hill, Dino (sensing this, no doubt) rode up alongside me, and placed is right hand in the small of my back and pushed me up the last part of the climb. When we reached the Lake Sonoma overlook, with me realizing what I would have missed (never having been there, even by car, before), I thanked Dino for the assist. He said, “that’s what friends are for.”

Dino always treated me and anyone I ever saw him encounter with generosity and gentleness. There was a calm around Dino that always made our times together very special, and a welcome respite from the day-to-day stuff in both our lives, and in managing with our illness.

I last saw Dino on his 47th birthday (June 13). He was sleeping when I arrived. I stood by his bed and watched him for quite a while. He opened his eyes, awoke, and gave me my last ‘dose’ of calm, humor and concern for me. As I parted his company to share his awake time with others waiting to offer their birthday wishes, Dino’s last words to me asked that I stay in touch with Heather and the boys. Dino to the end! I promise, I will, Dino. I will love and admire you always.

Gene Berman

2 Responses to “Steven Cozza Giro Bello Classic This Rides For You, Dino Garcia”

  1. Steve Wilkinson says:

    I knew Dino while he was at Berry College in Rome GA. Paul Marks, Dino, and I did a LOT of miles in N. Georgia, and I appreciated his friendship and his resilience. He was a warm, joyous personality and I will never think of my time in Rome without thinking of Dino.

  2. Steven,

    I had many of those helping moments from Dino while in college. The helping hand on the back as we rode and I would try and keep up. Dino was the most caring and giving individual that I have ever met. He constantly put others before himself. I remember a club race we were doing in Rome. I think the distance was around 40 miles or so. I had just started riding that year and Dino and I were way out in front. He knew that I was spent and could hardly finish. He allowed me to win the race and I cherish that little mini trophy more than any other trophy that I ever received. It wasn’t about the win but about the love and friendship that Dino showed on that day. I will miss him till the day I am no longer here on this earth.

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