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Rocky Russo, 1948-2012

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#26 Uncle Fred

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 08:38 AM

Very sad. Rest in peace, Rocky.
Fred Correnti

#27 BackAgain


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Posted 02 January 2012 - 10:13 AM

That is so sad... he will be missed.

Sincere condolences to his family and friends
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#28 macman


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Posted 02 January 2012 - 01:18 PM

RIP, Rocky... If you could only let us now if there are slot car tracks in Heaven!
Ben Kernan
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#29 stumbley


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Posted 02 January 2012 - 02:20 PM

No words. Rocky was a great friend and slot car enthusiast. He will be greatly missed.
Stan Smith
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#30 Cheater


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Posted 02 January 2012 - 03:08 PM

No words is right, Stan. We've simply lost one of the best among us.

Gregory Wells

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#31 slotcarone


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Posted 02 January 2012 - 03:49 PM

My condolences to the Russo family. RIP, Rocky.

Mike Katz

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#32 JerseyJohn


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Posted 03 January 2012 - 10:18 AM

So sorry, Duff. Good friends are hard to find. I'm sure he has God's ear!!

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#33 Ecurie Martini

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 12:01 PM

One of the insidious signs of advancing age is a change in expectations. In years past, when alumni bulletin, class notes, a newspaper, or specialty publication carried the report of the loss of a classmate, fraternity brother, friend, or acquaintance I was surprised. These days, when those same communications do not carry such news, I am surprised. Thus, I was pained and sad when I came upon this thread but not surprised.

Rocky was my friend – the kind of friend with whom one could be out of touch for months or years and, upon reconnection, take up exactly where one left off. I'm going to talk about him for a while – fair warning – this may go on for a bit.

Rocky and I first met via the old Slots DL – the predecessor to today's sophisticated forums (fora for the classical scholars out there). We traded anecdotes, memories, and gentle insults for months before actually meeting at the first Slots Convention at Rad Trax in Las Vegas in the spring of 1999. Rocky had driven up from Salt Lake City with his sons in a van loaded with rolling containers filled with hundreds of slot cars! He and I had discussed at length various approaches to converting the Merit 1/24 plastic models to slot cars. His offerings were mostly wire chassis fitted with 36D can motors while mine were the aluminum chassis Pittman-powered sidewinders that I found unbeatable on a modest sized home Scalextric track. The contest was quickly joined and even more quickly decided in favor of Rocky's cars by a ratio of somewhere between two and three laps to one!

The whole weekend event wasn't really "organized". We looked at each other's cars, suggested races, and made up the race format on the spot. In many cases only a few of us would have appropriate cars for a suggested event. Rocky to the rescue – he always had at least half a dozen of everything! In addition to this he was more than willing to loan out cars to anyone who wanted to compete. When some demurred, citing their concerns about damaging the borrowed cars, his response was simple: "They're doomed, they are all doomed!"

Now a word about Rocky's cars: Rocky love racing cars – all kinds – and wanted operating models of all of them. He built more models of more different prototypes than anyone I know. They were based on all sorts of bodies, molded plastic, vacuum formed, fiberglass, cast resin, etc., spanning 40 years collecting and building. Not unreasonably, a collection of this size, age, and purpose did not include many examples that one would put up for a concours prize. On the other hand, while the exterior finish on some of the cars might have seemed a bit "agricultural" the chassis were straight and square, all four wheels contacted the track and rolled smoothly, gears meshed properly, the cars handled beautifully, and rarely failed.

I think this said a lot about the sort of person that Rocky was. He unappologetically did things his way and on his terms! I learned a lot from him that weekend. I made (I hope) a lot of friends at that event and take pride in the fact that I count Rocky is one of them.

So this was the course of our relationship for the next four years – challenges and friendly insults on Internet to be resolved by a once-yearly meeting in Las Vegas. During this span of time Rocky moved briefly to Pittsburgh. He and his boys made the trek east one weekend and stayed with us in Baltimore. We had a good time talking slot cars all day long and poking through my modest collection of old bits and pieces.

I had the opportunity to return the visit several years later. Rocky and family had moved back to Utah. A business meeting took me to Salt Lake City and I went out a day or so ahead of time to visit. It was a fascinating experience. I have seen photos and descriptions of a number of slot car collections. Rocky's was different. It was not shelf after shelf of historic cars in their original form and unopened mint boxes of old slot cars. Rather, it was stacks of plastic bins filled with slot cars, parts of slot cars, mostly used (and showing ample signs of wear), and a collection of new old stock bodies kept as replacements for the inevitable damage suffered by the cars that he liked to race.

I stayed with him that evening. He was very clearly concerned that his wife, who spent part of her time at a clinic some distance away, was late in returning. When she finally arrived, his relief was palpable. It was obvious that they were very close. It was not too long thereafter that he lost her to an automobile accident. When I spoke to him after the accident, he told me, among other things, that he would not be attending the upcoming slot car convention. My response was that that was completely unacceptable and I expected him to be there. (I harbor no illusions that I single-handedly changed his mind. Pliability was not one of Rocky's notable characteristics but perhaps I planted a seed.)

I don't recall exactly when this transpired but I do know that 2004 marked the end of the Las Vegas conventions. The next year we assembled near Phoenix and, as I recall, the following year was the first time the group, now somewhat different, met at Buena Park. One evening, near the end of this gathering, I said to Rocky, "You know, I've been thinking" to which he responded, before I could finish the thought: "This is the last one". And so it was for me.

That was the last time I saw Rocky. We kept in touch, mostly by phone, in the following years. Sometimes the better part of a year would pass between contact but, as I suggested earlier, we always took up exactly where we left off. We didn't always talk about slot cars. Rocky's interests, knowledge, and experience covered a wide range of topics. I never knew what his formal education was but, whatever the source, it left him with that most valuable of commodities, an active and inquiring mind.

His boys are fine young men and will be all right. He raised them well. (And they, in turn, looked after "Dad" very carefully – making sure he rested and had something to eat at the proper intervals – Rocky was diabetic.)

I spoke briefly with Rocky just after learning, here in this forum, of his latest medical problem. Not unexpectedly, he didn't sound good. I couldn't find any words that I thought would help. Later, I wondered if it was anything that I could do and now wonder if there was anything that I should've done.

He made the world a better place and we are poorer for having lost him.

Alan Schwartz

#34 TSR


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Posted 03 January 2012 - 12:23 PM


As a personal witness of the above, amen.

#35 Matt Bruce

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 01:16 PM

I personally didn't know Rocky, but after reading this thread I feel like I did. If there is any truth that as long as the memory of ones life stays in the hearts and minds of those closest to them, then Rocky will live a very long time thanks to all of you.

Godspeed, Rocky.

#36 vfr750


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Posted 03 January 2012 - 02:27 PM

Like so many others I only knew rocky through the DL and Forums but I'll miss him.

Slot racing has lost one of its characters.

RIP, Rocky.

John Roche
Bedford, UK

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#37 redbackspyder


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Posted 03 January 2012 - 02:33 PM

Goodbye, old friend. Another character lost to slot racing. They must have had an open lane upstairs, next to Pete.

Mill Conroy

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#38 dc-65x


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Posted 03 January 2012 - 02:57 PM

Very sad news. RIP, Rocky.

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#39 kgalasso



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Posted 03 January 2012 - 03:27 PM

I didn't know Rocky. My condolences to his family and friends. Sorry to hear another great slot car person has passed.
Kirk Galasso

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#40 slotbaker


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Posted 03 January 2012 - 04:00 PM

Sad news. :(

I only knew of Rocky here on the forum, and enjoyed every post I read. It was like a personal tour back in slot car history.

RIP, Prof.

Steve King

#41 Wet Coast Racer

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 04:22 PM

I never met the gentleman, but I sure enjoyed his posts.

One of a kind! All the best, Rocky.
Paul Hodgson

#42 Pete L.

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 04:46 PM

Rest In Peace.
Peter J. Linszky

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#43 munter


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Posted 03 January 2012 - 09:21 PM

Only got to talk with him here at the blog, but I'm saddened to hear of his passing...

Me, too...

After reading the words of previous posters, especially EM's, I don't mind admitting there is a tear in my eye.

John Warren
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#44 olderracer


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Posted 03 January 2012 - 10:51 PM


RIP, Professor. Although we never met I sure enjoyed reading your words. Our thoughts are with your family.

Jack Beers

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#45 Keith Tanaka

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 11:05 PM

For those of you who did not have the opportunity to meet "Professor Fate", Rocky Russo in person, here's a couple of short video clips and eight photos of a couple of Rocky's cars at the 2008 Slot Car Convention at Buena Park Raceway in April 2008: LINK

Rocky was a one of a kind slot car enthusiast. He had a lot of slot cars which he built. He always said that he built them to run/race them, and not to admire them on a shelf.

RIP Rocky,

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#46 Lovinggood


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Posted 04 January 2012 - 05:56 AM

It was an honor to know and race with you, Rocky.

Rest In Peace, my friend.

Steve Lovinggood

#47 RichKraft


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Posted 04 January 2012 - 08:38 AM

Just clicked on Keith's link to video and photos of Rocky... on the front spoilers of an open wheel car, it is neatly written on one side "No Pain, No Main". On the other side is written "Will Race for Food."

Well, the Professor doesn't need to race for food now but he has made the main. RIP, Rocky, he will be missed. I enjoyed his posts for years and got a kick out of his "race it!" attitude.
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#48 rewinder


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Posted 04 January 2012 - 09:39 AM

I never got to meet him personally at a slot track or at the scale flying fields for the model airplanes, the balsa scale planes he built from scratch. He so dearly loved to compete. Rocky was a good man. He was unique and one of a kind human being. He so missed his late wife. Now they are together in a much better place.

I was truly amazed about what Rocky had not done in life. He was his own man. I know he dearly loved his family. They will miss hiim greatly. Rocky always had a story to tell and I give him credit, he never told you the same story twice. He was a master of wit and day to day wisdom. Rocky was a suvivor.

Rocky, old wise one, rest in peace. You have chosen your thermals well.

Clay Parker

#49 Victor Poulin

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Posted 04 January 2012 - 09:44 AM

I just found this out this morning, and I'm in shock!! Rocky and I had many, many conversations on here and OWH over the years. I have to tell you guys, that I don't think I ever met anyone with more passion and knowledge in this hobby.

This is like losing a brother as far as I'm concerned.

Sad day for all of us who called him our friend.

RIP, Rocky.
Alright, who cut the cheese?

#50 Cheater


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Posted 04 January 2012 - 09:51 AM

Rocky's obituary was published in the Salt Lake City Tribune today:

Rockland Francis Russo
Professor Fate


Rockland Francis Russo, ("Rocky") born March 6, 1948, died January 1, 2012, in his home, after suffering from complications related to his recent illness.

Rocky was most widely known as a prolific designer, well-read historian, and dedicated hobbyist. He raced slot cars semi-professionally, but it was his engineering and design skills that gained him recognition. He signed every frame he built with his alter-ego, "Prof-Fate". In his retirement, he was a copy editor for Model Car Racing magazine.

Rocky was also passionate about aeronautics and game design. He was adept at understanding flight characteristics of modern and older aircraft, and assisted the Air Force with training. Using this knowledge, Rocky designed a successful series of flight wargames, including Canvas Falcons and Mustangs & Messerschmidts. With longtime friend Doug Larsen, he developed a historical wargame known as The Art of War. He, along with Michael Scott Kurtick, designed Space Patrol (1977), a game which was later converted into the first Star Trek role-playing game. He also enjoyed constructing and flying model airplanes.

However, Rocky felt that his greatest achievement was his marriage to Catherine Marie Craven. He met her while attending the University of Utah and it was love at first sight. He held three jobs to put her through medical school, then gave up working so that he could stay home with their children. Through the calm and the storm, he was devoted to her completely, until her death in 2003.

He will be buried next to his love, Catherine, in a private ceremony in Cedar City. He is survived by his children John Russo (and wife Dija Russo), Joseph Russo (and wife Jaimee Kidder), and David Russo. He is preceded in death by his parents, and his child Eleanor Russo, who died in infancy in 1979.

In accordance with his wishes, a viewing will be held in Salt Lake City, at Garner Funeral Home on Thursday, January 5, from 6:00-8:00 PM. Those who knew him are welcome to say a few words. There will be no formal service or reception. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.garnerfuneral.com.

Gregory Wells

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