By Joyce M. Miles
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — An overwhelmed son is hoping the community will help him help his parents.
A fundraiser will be held Saturday at the South Lockport Volunteer Fire Co. hall for Lee and Rose Rosselli, a city couple who remain hospitalized in Buffalo five months after an SUV turned into their motorcycle on South Transit Road and nearly killed them both.
The benefit is being put on by Matt Rosselli, who says he needs all the help he can get covering the bills that are coming with his dad’s and mom’s recovery.
Lee Rosselli lost one of his legs and suffered a broken back, and Rose Rosselli suffered a traumatic brain injury, as a result of the SUV-motorcycle collision Oct. 25 in front of Valu Home Center plaza.
Neither Lee, a disability-retired construction worker, nor Rose, a former cleaning service operator, was expected to survive their injuries when they were brought to Erie County Medical Center last year. Matt says his aunt pushed him to think about about funeral arrangements for his parents when trauma physicians pronounced them both unlikely to get off life support.
The Rossellis bested the physicians’ initial dire predictions, but after more than a dozen surgeries apiece, Lee and Rose both are faced with life-altering physical challenges.
Lee has been fitted for a prosthetic leg and he’s presently learning how to walk with it. In the interim, he’s getting around in a wheelchair, and he may be able to leave ECMC for good by May — but his and Rose’s two-story old-style Clinton Street home is in no way handicap-accessible at the moment.
Making it that way will cost the cash-strapped family tens of thousands of dollars that they don’t have, according to Matt.
Making matters more complicated, the Rossellis are ineligible for subsidized home nursing care. Lee’s monthly Supplemental Social Security income is exactly $2 too much for either him — or brain-injured Rose — to receive that critical assistance once they’re released from ECMC.
Rose will remain hospitalized for an indefinite period. She didn’t lose her memory entirely, Matt said — she recognizes her family, but she is having to relearn speech. Damage done to her throat by lengthy use of a ventilator compounds the challenge, he added.
“I know you have to be prepared for things to happen to your parents,” 30-year-old Matt said this week. “I just never expected it would be both at the same time.”
Matt and his wife, Maggi, pulled together the Saturday benefit with help from an unexpected new family friend. Through her former work in banking, Sophia Eddy first went to bat for the Rossellis by helping Matt make sure his parents’ bills got paid while they were both unconscious. According to Matt, Eddy has since readily volunteered her personal time to help organize the benefit, going door-to-door in the local business community to solicit donations for a prize raffle and help publicize the Rossellis’ story.
Eddy said she’s simply moved by the plight of Lee and Rose, and Matt’s dilemma.
“They’re typical blue-collar, working class people, living modestly. There but for the grace of God go we,” she said. “I call Matt a kid, but he’s a man, struggling with huge responsibilities and doing the best he can. I’m just trying to help him the best I can.”
At the benefit, Matt intends to honor Niagara County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Harrer, whom he credits with saving his dad’s life at the accident scene. Harrer applied a tourniquet to Lee’s almost fully severed leg and kept him from bleeding to death.
“Without Deputy Harrer my dad wouldn’t be here at all,” Matt said. “I never really thought of police officers like that before.”
The benefit for Lee and Rose Rosselli will be ongoing from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the South Lockport fire hall. A pasta dinner, donated by Molinaro’s restaurant, will be served. Jonesie and the Cruisers will perform. Pop and beer will be served. A Chinese auction and 50/50 split raffles are planned. Tickets cost $20 in advance and $25 at the door; for advance tickets, call Matt Rosselli at 341-0463 or Sophia Eddy at 310-4466.
According to Eddy, donations of pop and beer for the event would be gratefully accepted.
Cash contributions to Lee and Rose Rosselli’s post-hospital care can be mailed to Matt Rosselli, 347 Walnut St., apartment 2, Lockport, NY 14094.