Activist Pete De Rosa is the Chronicle’s 2003 Citizen of the Year
By Steve Arthur
Longtime Citrus County resident and community activist Pete De Rosa has been selected as the Chronicle’s 2003 Citizen of the Year. De Rosa most recently organized a community effort to erect a war memorial near Crystal River to honor local soldiers who have died in the line of duty. The recently dedicated memorial is located at the entrance to Bicentennial Park. MATTHEW BECK/Chronicle
Activist Pete De Rosa is the Chronicle’s 2003 Citizen of the Year
Some people dream and some people do; Crystal River businessman and developer Pete De Rosa does them both. De Rosa has been named by the editorial board of the Citrus County Chronicle as its 2003 Citizen of the Year.
De Rosa, who grew up in Italy during and after World War II, emigrated from his home near Naples in 1950 as a young man full of energy and ambition. He says that when he looked around at the abundance of business opportunities in America, he rolled up his sleeves and eagerly set to work to take advantage of those opportunities.
He came to America as the representative of an Italian candy manufacturer, but he soon branched out into buying and selling whatever he could buy cheap and sell at a profit. For a while he had his own shop. He says he worked hard and labored long hours. “I worked so hard I had a heart attack,” he said. “But after some time I got back working.” He shrugged off suggestions from friends to go on welfare because of his heart problems.
“If I wanted to sit back, I could have stayed in Italy,” he says with a grin. Imbued with an unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit, he admits he had no taste for working for others as an employee.
He says he doesn’t like investing in the stock market, but land is another matter. Land, he says, holds it value while stocks can disappear like the flame in a candle.
With sharp business acumen and shrewd but sometimes risky investments, he says, with the support of his late wife, Bruna, he became economically successful.
When he moved to Citrus County from Islip, N.Y., almost 30 years ago, he immediately saw the inevitability of growth along the Gulf Coast and invested in land north of Crystal River. Part of that land is now a development called De Rosa Village off County Road 495. He sold his building sites by traveling north to visit in the homes of potential buyers, convincing them personally to come live here. And they came.
In those years, he saw the need for a hospital and set to work to organize community leaders to make a hospital happen. In 1972, he was appointed as chairman of the hospital planning board for Seven Rivers Community Hospital and in 1974 he was instrumental in getting a state-required certificate of need for the hospital. As that dream became a reality, he shepherded it along, serving on the board of directors and advisory board for many years. He saw the need to have trained medical personnel to work at that hospital and he organized a foundation that would provide scholarships for training nurses and other medical workers. For ten years he served as chairman of the Seven Rivers Medical Education Foundation. The foundation has raised more than a quarter million dollars in private contributions to provide scholarships to 300 Citrus County residents to pursue medical careers.
He saw the need for fire protection in his northwest corner of the county. In 1973 he organized the De Rosa Fire Department. He donated land for the firehouse. He was fire chief for two years and a volunteer for over a decade. He was a county fire commissioner for seven years.
He’s a charter member of the Crystal River Rotary Club too, and his friends say he is something of a legend for never having missed a Rotary meeting. His friends say he has helped many others in less public ways too, among them having promoted many charity drives in the community over the years.
He has also served as the president of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce and in 1999 was given the Rick Quinn Distinguished Citizen Award for his work with the chamber.
Most recently De Rosa and Fred Bunts put together a committee to raise funds to build the Fallen Heroes Memorial that has found a home at Bicentennial Park in Crystal River. Working together with Keith Taylor, Pat Fitzpatrick, J. Paul Cash and Patty Silvey, they put the $25,000 project together. He says he is most proud of this project, which he says mirrors one he built many years ago on property he owned in Islip, on Long Island.
Those who have worked with De Rosa say he has a kind of determination and energy that makes things happen. Attorney Keith Taylor described Pete De Rosa as a passionate man with visions, and all for the betterment of his community. “Lots of people have ideas and visions but he makes his visions become real,” Taylor said. Curtis Rich, a fellow Rotarian and former mayor of Crystal River, described De Rosa as a “gold certificate asset to our community. “”He’s very forceful but not to the point of irritation – he knows how to approach people. He knows how to read people and when you read him, you see he is very dedicated to whatever he does. You know that if he’s involved, he’s going to get it done.”
Chronicle Publisher Gerry Mulligan agrees: “If there is one man responsible for the construction of Seven Rivers Community Hospital (its former name) it is Pete De Rosa. All sorts of people told him the hospital would never be built, but you got the feeling he didn’t understand the language. He saw a need for medical services on the west side of the county and he kept pushing it until the hospital was constructed.”
“No one loves Crystal River like Pete does,” says Sun Trust banker Patty Silvey. “You can always count on Pete whether its taking gate receipts at the Manatee Festival or helping kids to shop at the Rotary Christmas.
“Lots of people talk about doing things but Pete gets them done. He’s a man of action with a heart as big as they come,” she said.
Activist helped build Crystal River area De Rosa dies at 78
How many people can say they built a hospital, a community and a fire department?
Pete De Rosa Real estate activist helped build Crystal River could claim those accomplishments – and more.
The 78-year-old Crystal River activist died Friday at Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center, but he left his mark on Citrus County.
De Rosa was born Jan. 27, 1926, in Italy and moved to Citrus County 36 years ago from Islip Terrace in Long Island, N.Y.
He believed the west side of Citrus County needed its own hospital, and that dream started to come true when De Rosa, the chairman of the hospital planning committee, and other board members proved to the state that the area could support its own hospital.
On June 24, 1974, Florida’s Department of Health and Rehabilitation Services issued the Certificate of Need for Seven Rivers Community Hospital, now named Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center.
Joyce Brancato, the chief operating officer of the hospital, said De Rosa continued to support the hospital long after it opened in 1978.
“He truly has been an outstanding asset to this community,” Brancato said.
After De Rosa moved to Citrus County, he developed De Rosa Village off County Road 495 in Crystal River. In 1973, he organized the De Rosa Fire Department. He donated land for the firehouse. He was fire chief for two years and a volunteer for over a decade. He was a county fire commissioner for seven years.
More than a decade ago, he started a foundation to raise scholarship funds for local residents who wanted to pursue medical careers
Fancy Taylor, the vice president of the Seven Rivers Medical and Educational Foundation, said De Rosa was the driving force behind that organization, and he was always fund-raising for good causes.
“He was such a great mentor,” Taylor said. “I never saw a man, one individual, that could do so much for a community. It was just him – he wasn’t a big business or anything. He was just an individual who wanted to give back and did in many thousands of ways. He was a great man, a truly great man.”
The foundation has raised more than a quarter million dollars in private contributions to provide scholarships to about 300 Citrus County residents.
He was a charter member of the Crystal River Rotary Club and a past president of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.
Last year, De Rosa organized the group that raised money to design the Fallen Heroes of Citrus County memorial and build it at Bicentennial Park in Crystal River.
In January, the Chronicle editorial board named De Rosa the 2003 Citizen of the Year. In 1999, he received the Rick Quinn Award from the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.
The Citrus County Commission honored De Rosa last week with a resolution honoring his many contributions to the community.
Commission Chairman Josh Wooten said he went to visit De Rosa about two weeks ago when De Rosa was riding a stationary bicycle at a rehabilitation center. Wooten said De Rosa expected to recover from his illness.
Soon afterwards, Wooten said it occurred to him that the county commission should honor De Rosa for what he had done for the community.
“He is the embodiment of the American dream, so last Tuesday, we did just that,” Wooten said.
De Rosa is survived by two sons, Vinnie De Rosa and his wife, Debbie, of Sarasota; Peter De Rosa and his wife, Linda, of Crystal River; a daughter, Irene Self, Crystal River; a sister, Maria Noetzel and her husband, Otto, of New Port Richey; nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
His wife, Bruna Eleanor De Rosa, died Oct. 11, 2001.
The funeral Mass for Pete De Rosa, 78, Crystal River, will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2004, at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Crystal River. Burial will follow at Crystal River Memorial Cemetery.
The visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Strickland Funeral Home Chapel in Crystal River.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are requested to the Seven Rivers Medical and Educational Foundation, P.O. Box 232, Crystal River, FL 34423 or the Fallen Heroes of Citrus County, P.O. Box 975, Crystal River, FL 34423