I couldn’t help but be saddened a bit this week by news of the passing of Rosemarie Lombardo Rogers in a small town in northern Ohio. The Lombardos were arguably the most famous family to hail from London, Ont. — a city that once boasted about that connection, but has long since allowed it to fade into memory, like the vanishing tones of a vinyl LP.
Rosemarie Rogers’ death at 85 bookends the musical family that dominated American popular music for much of the middle 20th century.
I immediately recalled my extended visit with Mrs. Rogers on a June afternoon in 2001. I had made an appointment to interview her for a column on the Lombardo musical story and her place in it. I arrived in Whitehouse, Ohio, in mid-morning and found her home near the end of a shaded street on the town’s outskirts. We talked for a couple of hours. She made us lunch, put some jazz on the Bose disc player in the kitchen, and we continued into the mid afternoon.
The most curious part of the visit was the fact that I seemed to be able to tell her stories she’d never heard. I’d read Guy Lombardo’s autobiography, Auld Acquaintance, a year or so earlier and brought a couple of used copies of it with me. She thrilled at some of the anecdotes I read to her from the book, reliving them and, in some cases, finishing the story.
By the time I left, we were friends. I asked her to autograph the page on which her picture appeared, and she obliged, adding a few words (see the photo above). As for the second copy of the book, I left it with her; she didn’t have one. The column appeared in The London Free Press a week or so later.