Peter J. Rossi, a construction industry executive who built a following singing music from Italian opera to contemporary classics at public events, died Saturday of a heart attack, his family said. He was 72.
Mr. Rossi spent more than 40 years working and overseeing insulation work on major commercial and industrial projects. After settling in Sacramento in 1968, he was a manager for Owens Corning and became a founding partner of Performance Contracting Inc., a leading U.S. construction company. He worked as a consultant after retiring in 2000.
Meanwhile, he shared his love of music as a popular vocalist at weddings, funerals, concerts and group functions. He delighted audiences with a rich, baritone voice and passionate performances of popular songs ranging from arias by Puccini and Verdi to Frank Sinatra favorites.
"He lived in two different worlds," said his son Craig. "In construction, he was very technical and detail-oriented. When he sang, he was an artist. You could see he was in the moment and that he had an emotional connection to the music. He was a whole different person."
For 35 years, Mr. Rossi served as cantor at the 8 a.m. Mass every Sunday at St. Mary's Catholic Church in east Sacramento, where parishioners brushed away tears during his renditions of "Ave Maria" and "The Lord's Prayer." He also entertained patrons at Aldo's Restaurant in Town & Country Shopping Center for many years.
In 2009, he went into business with his son Robert as owners of Vince's Ristorante in West Sacramento. Rapt listeners applauded his performances every Saturday night.
"He had a booming voice that you could hear across the restaurant, even when he held the microphone at his waist," Robert Rossi said. "His voice got better as the years went on, and he could sing higher notes, too."
Born in Lucca, Italy, in 1940, Peter J. Rossi immigrated with his family in 1947 and lived in Chicago before settling in San Francisco. He started singing in Catholic school and won lead roles in musicals and church choir solos. He studied opera and sang on weekends in North Beach restaurants.
He worked in his father's cabinet and furniture shop and studied architecture and construction engineering at San Francisco City College. He also attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on a music scholarship but eventually chose a career in construction over music.
"I asked him why, and he said he was married and had kids and had to support them," Robert Rossi said. "Family always came first."
Peter Rossi had four children and lived in the Larchmont Riviera community with his wife of 48 years, Emily. He belonged to the Knights of Columbus and performed at many school and community events, including the Jesuit Spring Fling.
"Singing was his love and avocation," his wife said. "It was a wonderful outlet for him. He got better with age, like fine wine."
Peter J. Rossi
Born: June 20, 1940
Died: Sept. 8, 2012
Survived by: Wife, Emily Rossi of Sacramento; sons, Craig Rossi of Pleasanton and Robert Rossi of Sacramento; daughters, Teresa Rossi-Long and Elizabeth Rossi, both of Sacramento; mother, Erina Rossi of Carmichael; brother, Arnold Rossi of Sacramento; sister, Sandie Rossi of Hawaii; and seven grandchildren
Services: Visitation, 4 p.m. Friday, and rosary, 7 p.m. Friday; funeral Mass, 11 a.m. Saturday; all events at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 1333 58th St., Sacramento
Remembrances: Donations may be made to St. Mary's Elementary School and the American Cancer Society.