Lou Rossi

Lou Rossi had a long military career before becoming very involved in veterans advocacy.

At the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center and Museum, Lou Rossi is somewhat of a longevity legend.

“Lou Rossi became involved with the Veterans Memorial Center from its inception on Merritt Island in 1989,” said Donn Weaver, the vice president of the Veterans Memorial Center and chairman of the Brevard Veterans Council.

Through three decades of volunteering, Rossi has been involved in everything from the center’s initial construction to service in various leadership positions. His passion for the Center is such that he always has the ears of the crowd.

“His ideas for new projects are imaginative and sometimes controversial but always listened to since Lou Rossi is truly the longest serving elder statesman now at the VMC,” Weaver said.

Years ago, Rossi even rented an airplane to survey the Merritt Island facility for all things veteran to photograph its progress. The Merritt Island resident’s association with the Center continues even though he has clocked 90 birthdays.

“I’m there almost every day,” he said.

Rossi remains grateful to military service, which provided him with sanctuary from an abusive family situation.

“My father was a strict disciplinarian and beat the hell out of me and I couldn’t take it anymore,” Rossi said.

In 1948, at age 17, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native joined the Navy, primarily because his older brother was already there. The Navy channeled the teenager to submarines, where he found a calling that would serve him well for decades.

After four years working as a diesel engineman in submarines plying the waters around England, Rossi left the bottom of the ocean and took to the skies by enlisting in the Air Force.

“I wanted something different, I wanted to fly,” he said.

Craving yet more experiences, Rossi left the Air Force after three years and went into civilian work, but the air conditioner engineer was still never too far from the submarines, including Nautilus, the world’s first operational nuclear powered sub. He worked on the legendary sub before it made history as the first sub to make a submerged transit of the North Pole in 1958.

After the civilian stint, Rossi joined the Merchant Marines, where he served for 31 years. In fact, he considers himself a Merchant Marine now and for the future.

“I’m still a licensed reservist,” he said.

By the 1970s, Rossi was in Brevard, employed by Brevard County.

Rossi cannot imagine not being a part of the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center.

“I spend a lot of time at the Vet Center,” he said.

He has little use for hierarchy and politics; he just wants to help veterans.

“I always say we don’t have officers here, we have vets,” he said.