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Loretta S. Rossi, 89, had healing hands and a green thumb

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Obit photo of Loretta Rossi

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Updated: December 3, 2012 6:45AM

Loretta S. Rossi surrounded herself with beautiful flowers she meticulously grew at her home.

A former president of the Lincolnwood Garden Club, she loved gardening and she was an avid student of it, stocking her home with gardening books and plant ordering guides.

“You could walk into a garden store with her and she could name every plant,” said her daughter, Rosalind Rossi, an education reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. “She knew not only the common names for plants, she knew their botanical names.’’

And if you didn’t know how to care for the plant, Mrs. Rossi “could give you chapter and verse on how often to water it and whether it liked shade or sunlight.”

Mrs. Rossi, 89, died Wednesday in her northwest suburban home after a long illness, her daughter said.

The former Loretta Savona was born in Chicago in 1922 and grew up on the city’s North Side. She graduated in 1940 from what was then known as Von Steuben Senior High School and enrolled in the Chicago College of Naprapathy, Mrs. Rossi’s daughter said.

The unique field uses massage to treat the spine and ligaments, meaning Mrs. Rossi “knew how to give a terrific massage,’’ Rosalind Rossi said. “She had very healing hands — as well as a green thumb.’’

Mrs. Rossi graduated from the college in 1942 and was recommended by officials there to travel to Texas to provide treatment for a lung patient.

After World War II broke out, Mrs. Rossi came back to Chicago and worked for the United States Army Quartermaster Corps, a support branch of the Army. In 1943, she was transferred to the San Francisco office, where she primarily worked as a stenographer for the Army brass during the renegotiation of massive Army contracts.

“She once told me it could be anything from shoes to canned food,” Mrs. Rossi’s daughter said.

Mrs. Rossi then relocated south to Los Angeles, where her mother had moved. It was there in 1948 that she met her future husband, Matthew L. Rossi. Both were visiting an ill acquaintance.

“He had his coat on and was ready to go out the door, and when he saw her, he stuck around,” Rosalind Rossi said. He was so taken by her, he proposed on their second date.

In 1951, the couple moved to Chicago and eventually settled in the northwest suburbs, where they raised two children, Rosalind and her elder brother, Rex Rossi.

The family was among the original parishioners of Queen of All Saints Basilica in the Sauganash neighborhood.

Matthew Rossi went on to become one of Chicago’s leading custom tailors with his own shop, Rossi & Rossi, on Michigan Avenue, and later on La Salle Street. He died in 1998.

When the family moved to the suburbs and Mrs. Rossi had a house with a backyard, she dove into gardening — something her mother had also enjoyed. Her husband had a sunroom addition built onto the house so she could grow indoor plants and flowers. At one point, the Rossi home held some 200 indoor plants, including ferns that hung from specially installed sunroom pulleys.

Mrs. Rossi, a homemaker, became involved in local clubs and was president of the Lincolnwood Woman’s Club from 1962-1964 and of the Lincolnwood Garden Club from 1979 to 1981, her daughter said. Mrs. Rossi also loved to travel, play cards — especially pinochle — and play the organ.

She was devoted to her family, and left her son, daughter and daughter-in-law, Karen Rossi, not only her love of gardening — but the secrets of her famous baked ziti and biscotti recipes.

Other survivors include grandsons Matthew and Ryan Rossi.

Visitation will be 3-9 p.m. Friday at Smith-Corcoran Funeral Home, 6150 N. Cicero. Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday at Queen of All Saints Basilica, 6280 N. Sauganash, with burial in All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines.

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