This obituary was written on three days' notice.
Sunday night I got an email from my friend Chris Rosati. It read, in part, "I want to thank you again for everything ... I'll die Tuesday … There is a celebration of life Saturday, November 4th, if you can make it."
The email was classic Rosati: Straight to the point — with an eye toward the next big thing.
I first met Chris Rosati in the winter of 2013. I'd heard he wanted to steal a Krispy Kreme donut truck, drive it around his hometown of Durham, North Carolina, and give away the contents. He wanted to be a thief like Robin Hood — only with even stickier fingers. He assumed Krispy Kreme wouldn't prosecute him. Why would they lock up a dying man who just wanted to make people smile?
About a year earlier, Chris had been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. There is no cure. For Chris, who had always been a hypochondriac, the diagnosis was strangely liberating. His worst fear had been realized. Now he had nothing left to lose.
Eventually the Krispy Kreme company caught wind of his plot and gave him the truck and 1,000 donuts to give away. I rode with him as he spread the sugar high. It was the first of his many adventures promoting kindness.
After the donut caper, Rosati began handing out "Butterfly Grants." He would give school kids $50 each and tell them to start changing the world. The kids could spend the money on materials for a specific kindness project — or they could parlay the $50 into a larger donation by hosting a fundraiser. Dozens of schools across the country adopted the program.
School superintendent Dr. Judith Palmer brought the idea to her district in Winsted, Connecticut. Afterward, she wrote on the district website, "It is impossible to describe in words how much this program has affected those involved. I believe that most students are thirsty for ways to make a difference in the world. They do see the needs. I have found our students to be socially aware and determined to become change makers."
Chris was always looking to make a difference — and always with a smile. He once talked me into doing a "skit" with him. You can click here to see the video, but be warned — it involves me wearing a lot of formal attire and Chris ends up shirtless. He may have been dying, but he could still make you laugh 'til it hurt.
Unfortunately, his final few months were not his best. He had a tracheostomy to extend his life. He wanted more time with his family. He wanted more time to spread kindness. But the trach took away his ability to speak and substantially diminished his quality of life. In his final email to me, he said the trach had turned him into a "monster." So he elected to disable the trach. Doctors did that today and Chris died hours later. He was 46.
But for those who grew to love Chris Rosati, myself included, there was nothing he could do or say at the end to negate the gifts he gave. I think his daughter Logan said it best when I interviewed her for a 2014 Father's Day story. "He tried to make friends with the world. I think it's hard to do," she said. A few tears started pooling before she finished, "I'm proud of him."
We're all proud of him.
Chris is survived by Logan, her younger sister Delaney, and his wife Anna.
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