2015 November 6: Fred Ross

Ferdinand 'Fred' Joseph Ross III, passed away at the age of 70 on November 6, 2015 at Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb, IL. He had been battling cancer for eight years.


Born January 31, 1945, in Santa Barbara, California, to Elizabeth Burke and Ferdinand Ross Jr., he married Sumathi (Pillai) Ross on October 18, 1989 in Golden, Colorado.


Growing up accompanying his father's postings in the U.S. Marine Corps, Fred's childhood encompassed several states. One common thread in his youth was his membership in the Boy Scouts. Another was his early discovery and life-long passion of knowledge and reading.


He graduated from Crystal Lake High School in 1963, already published in a poetry anthology. In 1968 Fred graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, earning High Honors and a teaching certificate. He taught English at Hebron High School for two years.

It was a reflection of his natural inclination to teach and educate, however he did not remain as a teacher permanently. He eventually joined Castle PrinTech in DeKalb and remained there for 35 years, serving in a variety of positions, culminating in running quality control.


Those who have had the privilege of knowing Fred would recognize the ideals he lived by in his choices: Fred loved life, and his take on it was, 'One should enjoy living'. He devoted himself to a life filled with ideas, books, music, drama, good conversations, friends and family, rather than wrestling with mundane responsibilities, or keeping up a social facade. Or famously, in his own words, “Chores will be around for a thousand years – whereas one only has a limited amount of time to enjoy life!”


While being an epicurean bon-vivant, he was simultaneously a kind, honourable, intelligent, one-of-a-kind gentleman, taking in life with a twinkle in his eye, and a zest to pursue all that caught his intellectual and gastronomical fancy. He was a modern day Renaissance man with an equal appreciation for the sciences that he held for the arts. Diversity was the hallmark of his interests, which were eclectic and yet refined.


Fred started young, involved in literary, social and film clubs in college, and enjoyed live theatre and several genres of music, Western and Indian classical, rock and blues music. He enjoyed nature, gardening and walking his cat through the garden, always stopping to smell the flowers. Unsurprisingly, he had a keen eye for beauty, and practiced photography and refurbishing wood furniture, oak being his favourite wood. Food was another great love, both adventurously and satiety.


In his youth he enjoyed bicycling all over Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa, first with friends, then later with his wife Sumathi. Travel was something they both loved with an emphasis on interesting and exotic; Malaysia, Bangkok, England and Amsterdam to name a few destinations. His most recent and memorable trip was in celebration of his 70th birthday with Sumathi, mom, sisters and nephew Jonathan in Harry Potter's magical world at Universal Studios, Orlando.

His first love never changed, reading was his number one passion, and over the years the library he built grew vast, and varied - the Greek Classics, poetry, music, mystery, videos, sci-fi, fantasy, and comics. Fred would read everything from Euripedes' 'The Bacchae' to Donald Duck's misadventures, though like all bibliophiles he had his favourites. His peerage were Faulkner, Chaucer, Garcia Marques, Maria Vargas Llosa, Shakespeare was his bard, and Harry Potter was his hero.


More than gourmand of life, Fred was a scholar at heart. He came alive in creative engagement, and was a consummate teacher. It pleased him to impart knowledge he cultivated from both books and his own experiences, and he did it naturally. Warm, open-minded, curious and accepting, it was easy to learn from Fred.


His life was full. He chose to live at the intersection of the Socratic Good Life and Epicurean ideal, and anyone to everyone was welcome to learn.


He enriched the lives of all who knew him, from relatives to friends to co-workers and acquaintances. He will be dearly missed by them all.


Fred is survived by his beloved wife of 26 years Sumathi, his mother Elizabeth, siblings Mark (Shirley), Kathy and Susanne, his mother-in-law Meena, sister-in-law Vasenthi (Bala), brother-in-law Jayabalan, six nieces and nephews, an abundance of close friends, and his cat, Luna.


Many individuals and institutions played a role in extending Fred's time on Earth and his quality of life. The family would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to the many, wonderful, dedicated and indefatigable staff of UW Carbonne Center's Medical, Hematology & Radiation Oncology in Madison, Wisconsin, and KishHealth System, Cancer Center (Medical & Radiation ), Kishwaukee Hospital and Clinic (formerly DeKalb Clinic). In addition, Lehan's Home Medical, DeKalb, which helped with care and palliative items, and Jewel OSCO Drugs, DeKalb, where Fred picked up his prescriptions for decades. Finally, we would like to thank the DeKalb Public Library, for providing Fred the means to a lifetime of books, tapes, videos and kindred spirits.

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