Raymond Renato Rosso, 96, of Lido Island, Newport Beach, an Italian immigrant, U.C. Berkeley graduate, World War II Navy carrier pilot and the first football coach of Orange Coast College, died peacefully in his sleep on the night of Dec. 1, 2012.
Proud of his immigrant heritage, Ray Rosso was born in Turin, Italy, during World War I. He came to America with his parents, Battista and Rita Rosso, by way of Ellis Island and moved west, settling first in the North Beach area of San Francisco, then across the bay to Oakland, where Ray and his brother, Edward, grew up. After working through the Depression, the family moved inland to Lafayette, Calif., where they bought a house and five acres of land on which they grew a vineyard, made wine and harvested fruits, nuts and garden vegetables.
Ray’s career in athletics led from the University City High School football team in Oakland to the University of California at Berkeley where he played guard and placekicker for outstanding Cal teams, including the 1937 “Thunder Team,” which won the Rose Bowl game of 1938 against Alabama. Finishing college, he served his country in World War II as a Navy carrier pilot and flight instructor. At war’s end he resumed his career in football as the head coach of Chaffey Junior College in 1946. In his second year, Chaffey won the Junior Rose Bowl game against a team from Cameron, Okla. He was then hired to become the first football coach at Orange Coast College. Eight seasons later, during which his 1951 team won the Eastern Conference championship, Ray retired from coaching football. But he stayed at OCC until 1984. coaching tennis, golf, handball, sailing and other sports.
Always at his side in life was his wife, Jean Kehlet, daughter of George Kehlet, the founder and owner of Meeks Bay Resort, Lake Tahoe. Married in 1942, Ray and Jean had three children: David in 1944, Bob in 1947 and Tina in 1950. For the children, growing up meant summers together at Meeks Bay and winters on Lido Island, where the family had moved in 1955. Ray and Jean had an active retirement of travels through Europe and motor home trips across America. They loved time spent with their grandchildren in Southern California, Idaho and Pennsylvania. At home Ray had his garden, workouts at the OCC gym, and long bicycle rides up the coast from Newport to Huntington Beach. Most afternoons you could find Ray and Jean on the Lido Island Yacht Club beach under a warm California sun taking a dip in the bay. When Jean passed away in April 2012, Ray was at her side.
Ray and Jean are survived by their children, Bob, Dave and Tina; daughter-in-law, Katie Rosso; their grandchildren, Jessica Nemeth, Ken Rosso, Ben and Kate Goetting, and Stephan Rosso; and their great-grandchildren, Aviva, Yael, Naftali and Nomi. They will be remembered and missed by Jean’s brother, Fred Kehlet.