Tom Rosenberg, whose parents fled Nazi Germany with him in 1938 to America where he helped preserve the American River Parkway and Lake Tahoe, died on Valentine’s Day in Sacramento at age 85.
Rosenberg, who had Alzheimer’s disease, was in hospice care, said Hilary Abramson, his wife of 32 years and a former Bee reporter.
“Everyone who knew him knew his mantra: ‘You need one of three ingredients to be happy: hope, a sense of accomplishment and love,’ ” Abramson said. “He was known as ‘Father of the American River Parkway’ for helping run a bond issue for it and ‘Bingo King’ for the nonprofit bingo games he ran in Sacramento for Capital Public Radio, the Developmental Disabilities Service Organization, the Sacramento Asian Community Center, The Sacramento Children’s Home and others.”
Abramson said he also helped support a $85 million bond issue for Lake Tahoe’s conservancy.
When his family arrived in the U.S., they left the name Rosenberg behind and became Ross.
“He liked to joke that he ‘grew up on the streets of New York’ eating peas and potatoes, working odd jobs, playing gin and sneaking into jazz clubs,” Abramson said. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh, then served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Ross entered the political world in 1958, working on the campaign of California Gov. Goodwin Knight. Along with his job as vice president of sales and marketing for CornNuts Inc., he began freelancing a column for a weekly and ethnic newspaper in San Francisco that morphed into a weekly bicycle column that ran in The Sacramento Bee and other Northern California papers in the 1960s, Abramson said.
From 1970 to 1980 he worked in communications at Aerojet General, where he would ride his bike to work from Carmichael, Abramson said.
In 2000, “as political rhetoric turned anti-immigrant, he changed his name back to Rosenberg and published a column in Newsweek magazine explaining that he too was an immigrant and proud to be an American Jew,” Abramson said, adding that his memoir, “Everything’s Possible,” celebrates his life an an immigrant.
Alternating between Sacramento and the Bay Area, he retired to Sacramento in 2012, where he practiced jazz piano, “a dream he realized late in life,” Abramson said.
He is survived by his wife, son Jonathan Ross, daughters Amy and Katie Ross, and four grandchildren.
“His ashes will be scattered above his beloved Lake Tahoe,” Abramson said. Services are private, and donations can be made to the National Alzheimer’s Association, Friends of the American River or The Sierra Club.