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Pool Star Leaves a Legacy of Hope

Gene Rossi became a patient at the Hillman Cancer Center on St. Margaret’s campus in July 2022. In August, when many of us were enjoying the last days of summer, Gene was undergoing biopsies, scans, and chemotherapy port placement. Shortly before beginning the first round of chemotherapy, doctors at Hillman discovered the cancer had metastasized to Gene’s liver. Despite this, the chemotherapy was successful in eradicating 90% of the cancer. Gene was given a two-month reprieve from treatment during which he was eager to return to his passion – playing pool.

Gene started playing pool in his early 20s. He had a core group of fellow players and friends who played together for over 40 years. He was so passionate about pool, in fact, that two days into his second round of chemotherapy, Gene asked his doctor for two weeks off to attend a tournament in Las Vegas. Although he was experiencing intense side effects, Gene was determined to make it to the tournament. And make it he did – he and his two teammates won first place in the world championships.

Gene passed away at 67 in May of 2023, one week before the charity tournament. The fundraiser was a tournament of 64 players, and it sold out in less than 12 hours! There was even a waiting list to join the fun. By the end of the night, players had raised $750. This was matched by one of the players, and the owner of the pool hall donated $500. The winner of the 50/50 raffle donated his winnings back to the Rossi family. A day that began at 11am ended around 2am – a testament to the dedication Gene’s legacy inspires.

Throughout the planning of the tournament, many people messaged the family on social media expressing a desire to participate, even as non-pool players. Gene’s daughter started a GoFundMe fundraiser, and the results exceeded everyone’s expectations. Humbled by the outpouring of support and love, just before he passed away, Gene asked that all funds be donated to the Peter G. Ellis Oncology Fund at St. Margaret Foundation to help others.

Eileen, his wife, visited the Foundation in June of 2023 to donate over $5,000 collected in Gene’s honor throughout his nine months of treatment. She expressed how positive their experience at Hillman Cancer Center was despite the difficult health journey Gene experienced. We are grateful for Gene and his family and friends, whose generosity will impact countless patients in crisis at the Cancer Center. Having already established a legacy for himself in the world of pool, Gene’s legacy of positivity and generosity will be remembered at St. Margaret for a long time.

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“I wasn’t happy he was going – the chemo was very hard on his body, and I didn’t think traveling across the country was a good idea. But he came back in the best spirits. He had to prove to me it was worth it!” – Eileen Rossi, Gene’s wife of over 40 years.

Energized by his win in Las Vegas, Gene came home and continued his second round of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy depleted his blood cell counts, causing a two-week delay in treatment. Things were worsening, and his doctor made a plan to switch to a different treatment. But Gene’s liver had already started to fail.

Devasted by his diagnosis and rapid decline, Gene’s friends in the community organized a charity event to help Gene’s family with medical bills. They invited their friends and family to “come shoot pool with the best of the best,” – including Gene. Just as he was determined to compete in Las Vegas, Gene was determined to be a part of this event organized in his honor.

Gene Rossi (center) and teammates with their prize for winning the world championship.

Leaving a Legacy of Support for Nursing Students

“You never met such a kind and caring person,” says Kim Boyd, Cecelia’s cousin.

Cecelia pursued nursing early in life. She graduated in 1958 from the St. Margaret Hospital School of Nursing and went on to serve as a Registered Pediatric Nurse at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Even in retirement, Cecelia volunteered at Asbury Heights, a nursing home in Mount Lebanon, and kept a long-standing connection with the other members of her nursing class, with whom she still met for lunch.

She had been a donor to St. Margaret Foundation’s School of Nursing Student Fund for years – supporting nurses as they followed in her footsteps. Her love and generosity did not stop after her passing: she left the majority of her estate to various organizations that were close to her heart – including the St. Margaret School of Nursing. Cecelia’s kind heart will be felt by nursing students at St. Margaret for years to come.

Cecelia F. (Gessner) McKibben passed away on October 12, 2022, and left a legacy of kindness, warmth, and generosity. In fact, the incredible generosity of her estate gift to the St. Margaret School of Nursing will support nursing students for years to come.

Cecelia embodied that generosity throughout her entire life. She was the type of person who really loved her neighbors, friends, and family – and they loved her back. She even extended that love and kindness to her beloved garden. As a member of the Pittsburgh Rose Society, she spent a lot of time – up until her passing – caring for her many roses.

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