Friends and fans remember musician Rosie Ross
A skilled musician, one-man band and dancer with unique style - but most of all a gentleman - is how many remember Leonard Allen "Rosie" Ross.
Ross charmed audiences with his trumpet playing and irresistible sense of humor off-and-on for almost 60 years at the Pine Cone Inn.
From 1949 until 2008 - at the age of 102 - he continued to show his deep love for entertaining at the recently closed establishment, and drew the national spotlight a year ago appearing on a Barbara Walters special about longevity and a commercial for Genworth Financial.
He died on April 21 at the age of 103.
"He brought all of his following to the Pine Cone, and it was the beginning of an era," recalled Blais Wight, a musician who played with Ross through the years since meeting him in 1966.
"He was a born gentleman, and also a great ladies' man. I don't think that discredits anybody - he just loved to dance with the ladies and he was always very courteous to them."
Growing up in Oklahoma and Colorado, in the late 1930s Ross moved to Prescott, where he spent most of his life.
A gifted varsity athlete, Ross contemplated his future in high school between pursuing college basketball or dedicating his life to music, picking the latter because of the joy he found in making people happy with his music.
"I said, as long you want to hear me play Clyde McCoy's 'Sugar Blues,' I'll live to play it for you," Ross said in a 2007 interview after his 101st birthday gig at The Pine Cone Inn.
"He was a world-class individual. He was a good listener. I sat outside of the Pine Cone many evenings because he was always early to work. We sat out on the bench and shared information and stories, and he was always a real pleasure to talk with - a real, true gentleman," said Tony Ebarb, owner of the Pine Cone Inn for its final six years.
"It was always a pleasure for my wife and I watching him dance. It was quite remarkable how someone that age could dance. He never seemed to get tired - lots of energy."
"He really felt like life blessed him, so he gave a lot back. He never refused any kind of request to play - anniversaries, private parties or anything," said Rose Mary Perner, Ross' niece.
"He always got paid, but if he didn't, it was OK. He would go play anywhere, any parade, anything. He was just always ready to play. I think that kept him so alive."
From performing for allied troops at Supreme Headquarters in Europe at the end of World War II to funerals and Memorial Day services for the VA Medical Center, Ross showed particular reverence for veterans' causes, volunteering thousands of hours with the VA, American Legion's Honor Guard, VFW, Elks, the Shriners and others.
Karl Kaub, a trumpet player who performed Echo Taps with Ross at Citizens Cemetery Memorial Day service from 1999 until 2007, said Ross stood out through his standards to satisfy an audience.
"I never saw a musician as dedicated as he was," Kaub said.