Not every public official is beloved, nor should they be, but Warren Ross, inspired respect, affection, and loyalty.
By Robin Jovanovich
Not every public official is beloved, nor should they be, but Warren Ross, inspired respect, affection, and loyalty. He was a man of keen intelligence who possessed a dry wit and formidable determination. He was elected as a Rye City Councilman in 1985 and as Mayor four years later. While a dedicated Democrat, he worked well on both sides of the political aisle, and was a consummate listener as well as a man who was determined to find solutions to every community challenge.
Mr. Ross also served on the Board of Ethics, the Rye Town Park Commission, the Conservation Commission/Advisory Council, and the Rye City Board of Education.
When he died on February 10, 2015, the community mourned his passing. Those who knew him knew they were in the presence of greatness.
State Senator George Latimer recalled that, “The first lessons I learned of governance were taught by Warren Ross, a fellow Councilman and then Mayor during my years on the Council. Warren was a serious, thoughtful individual, not prone to overreaction or purely political posturing. He was a successful businessman and marketer long before he stepped into public office, and he brought years of worldly experience into our discussions and deliberations.”
Beth Griffin Matthews, who served on the City Council with him, said, “Warren Ross was a thoroughly unassuming, incredibly bright, thoughtful man. He was well read and well-spoken. I appreciated his passionate commitment to open government, responsible land use, and the environment. Warren was a man of integrity who worked hard to achieve consensus on divisive issues. Nonetheless, he was not reluctant to take potentially unpopular stands.”
Assemblyman Steve Otis, who served as Rye’s Mayor for 12 years after Mr. Ross, warmly remembers his predecessor as a man who “treated everyone with respect and represented Rye in a manner that we could all be proud. Warren left a positive mark on our City and our history.”
It was Maurio Sax, another longtime Rye resident and a Rye Democratic District Leader, who convinced Mr. Ross to run for public office. “We spotted Warren Ross early on as someone we wanted to recruit to serve. He was an intellectual with whom you could have a discussion on every important subject, but he was also a committed individual who had good political values.”
Born in Frankfurt, Germany on July 24, 1926, he was the son of two physicians. In the 1930s, the family moved to England, where Warren learned to speak English and attended New College Choir School in Oxford. At the beginning of World War II, the family moved to New York.
“Warren’s father had an active old-fashioned diagnostic practice,” said his wife Lucile Ross. “My husband attended the High School of Commerce in the Bronx, and by the time he was 19 he had a graduate degree.”
Mr. Ross received a Bachelor of Science degree from CUNY and an M.S. from Northwestern University.
After graduate school, he was an instructor in the English Department at City University of New York. “Warren planned on being an English teacher, but somewhere along the line he decided that if he stayed in academia it would be difficult to support a family,” said Mrs. Ross.
Because of a heart murmur, he was not drafted in World War II, but he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
While home on a weekend pass, he met his future wife, Lucile Perry, at a youth group event at All Souls Church in Manhattan.
“It sounds corny, but we knew right away and quickly became engaged,” said Mrs. Ross. They were married on December 15, 1951. In 1955, they moved to Rye, where they raised their three daughters and became happily involved with the life of the community.
Mr. Ross had a varied and accomplished career in medical advertising and communications. He started off writing radio scripts for the New York City Department of Health and soon was National Director of Public Information for United Cerebral Palsy. After working as a copywriter and account supervisor for William Douglas MacAdams, a medical advertising agency, from 1956 to 1960, he co-founded Kallir, Philips, Ross, Inc., which at the time of his retirement in 1991 was the leading U.S. health care advertising and communications company.
He put his intellectual skills to work as a writer, contributing freelance articles to The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Parents, and Advertising Age. He was the author of two works of non-fiction, “The Premise and the Promise”, published in 2000, and “Funding Justice”, published in 2005. For many years, he penned a column for his local paper, The Rye Record.
What he loved about Rye, his home for half a century, was he felt very much at home here, said his widow. “Warren liked the people and the fact that it was an ideal small city, self-contained and manageable.”
Mr. Ross was a serious cyclist, who enjoyed biking all over with his daughter Ellen. “We enjoyed traveling,” said his wife, “and talk about luck, Warren was supervisor for agencies in London and Brussels.” As a family, they spent as much time as they could in Block Island, R.I., where they have a second home.
In addition to his wife, Lucile, Mr. Ross is survived by his daughters Johanna Ross of Block Island, and Dr. Catherine Ross of Sanibel, Fla.; and his grandchildren, Alison and Jason. His daughter Ellen predeceased him.
A memorial service will be held in the spring. Donations in his memory may be made to Hospice & Palliative Care of Westchester, 311 North Street, Suite 204, White Plains, NY 10605.