Rodney Ross walks his daughter, Rukiya Ross, down the aisle during her wedding on September 3, 2017.
As a retiree, survivor of leukemia and the father of seven children and one grandchild, we question him about his life as a
NAME: Rodney Ross
BUSINESS: Ross Insurance Group Advantage (Independent Insurance Agent)
POSITION: Managing Agent
You retired from one position and are in another, how easy or hard was that transition to master?
The transition from working to retirement was very easy. I retired from my job of twenty-three years at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for the specific purpose of working as an Independent Insurance Agent on a full-time basis. I had been helping families protect their financial interest through the use of Life Insurance, Disability Insurance, and Annuity products on a part-time basis beginning in 2002, although not continually during all of those years.
M last day of work at BCBSM was Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 and the following morning I got up went downstairs to my desk at the same time that I would have arrived at my former job, which was about 6:30 am, and began my first day of working for myself. It was very exciting!
Then, on Wednesday, August 26th, 2015, exactly 8 weeks after my last day at BCBSM, I received a diagnosis from Henry Ford Hospital that I had Acute T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia (that’s a mouth-full) and I needed to report to the hospital the following morning; where I would probably be for the next 30 days. It would be an understatement to say “that was an unexpected surprise”; however it was the perfect opportunity for God to show His presence. During the midst of the phone conversation with the Physician’s Assistant, Cathy, from Henry Ford and the span of what was probably less than 30 seconds I experienced an interaction with God. While my wife, Sherrie, was talking with (or more accurately “grilling”) the PA I asked God to heal me, and when I returned from that God moment I was “At Peace”. I told the Cathy that I would report to the hospital the next morning as she instructed and I told Sherrie that it was time to hang-up the phone. After concluding the call with Cathy I told Sherrie that “it was going to be okay”. I did not hear God say anything and I had no idea whether or not I was going to live or not; however I was “absolutely at peace” and felt no fear or trepidation about anything. As the say, “the rest is history” or more to the point “His-story”, in terms of how God showed up and showed out over the course of my journey.
I received a bone marrow transplant on January 16th, 2016 and have been cancer free.
You are a survivor, what keeps you moving forward each day?
Yes, I am a SURVIVOR, for which I am grateful and mindful of everyday! Being blessed to wake up each day keeps me going. I do not dwell on things that beyond my control. It is my belief that the “ONLY” thing that we, people, and mankind, can control is “OUR OWN PERSONAL RESPONSE AND REACTION TO THINGS THAT HAPPEN”. I have two words for everybody, which are “TRUST GOD”. If and when you trust God, you do NOT worry, and you understand that God does not need our help with anything. It is our job to be faithful and obedient.
What is your favorite charity and why? What are some of your accomplishments with it?
My two favorite charities are the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) and St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
As a child, I grew up watching the Danny Thomas Labor Day Telephone for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital event. It just so happens that the form of leukemia I was diagnosed with in 2015, is typically found in Caucasian adolescents; of which I was neither in 2015. But the treatment regiment that I received was in part developed by the work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Twenty years ago, my leukemia had a survival rate of 20%. Today that survival rate os 95%! That is an accomplishment to shout about.
Since 1949, the LLS has invested over $1 billion towards finding cures, providing patient access and support, to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to be a survivor. It’s one goal is: a world without blood cancers. One of the coolest things about blood cancer research is that many of the breakthrough therapies, funded by the LLS, have application in solid organ cancers.
Do you have a favorite artist and what is your favorite song and why?
That is a hard question. I grew up listening to music and reading books. We had records of all types of music and bookshelves filled with different authors (and, yes writing is an art).
One of my favorite artist is Marvin Gaye. My favorite song is “What’s Going On”, from his 1971 album of the same title. I appreciated the message within the song, and throughout the entire album; which is timeless. The message was for the world. The meaning behind the words of “What’s Going On” are as relevant today as they were in 1971. The song “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” is as applicable in 2018 as it was in 1971. Marvin had a message, which was peace and love for all mankind.
When you have stressful days, what do you do to relax?
I am really grounded in the belief that “I control the things that I can control” and I do not let the other things get to me. I am an introvert by nature and I enjoy reading and listening to music, so when I do feel stress I most often will either read, listen to some music or just sit quietly and reflect on the moment. By the way, just in case anyone needed to know; “THE ONLY THING THAT YOU (man) CAN CONTROL IS YOUR REACTION AND RESPONSE TO THINGS THAT HAPPEN”.
How do you feel about investing money? What would you invest in, if you received a 1 million dollar windfall?
Investing is a “no-brainer”. I believe that the key to investing is determining your Risk Tolerance and appropriately leveraging your money on that basis; of course built upon doing your research and due diligence. There are no “safe” get rich quick schemes, but there are many avenues you can pursue to protect your principal investment while earning interest well beyond what financial institutions offer.
If I received a 1 million dollar windfall I would create a family trust with $500,000. I would search for 9 other people to partner with who could put up $500,000 and we’d establish an endowment to support organizations that provide direct services and programs to support academic achievement in underrepresented communities, through wholistic wrap-around family services. Five million dollars is not a whole lot of money, but I would look to build a partnership with other like-minded people who wanted to “do what we could do”, and who know’s perhaps we will inspire others to do something.
What is something that people would find very interesting about you. Something that would shock someone enough to say, “I did not think you would know, be interested in or engage in that.”
I became a licensed mortician in 1983. After I graduated from Michigan State University (MSU) in 1981, I entered the Mortuary Science program at Wayne State University. I had always wanted to be a business owner and was entrepreneurial. At the time I graduated from MSU I considered the businesses that Blacks historically had been most successful in. That list included party stores, insurance agencies, and funeral homes. I was absolutely clear that I did not want to go the party store route. My decision to go into Mortuary Science was not a bad decision, but it was one that I went into “not knowing what I didn’t know”. I had lived in Lansing and noted two things: there was only one Black funeral home and many of the Blacks (affluent ones) used the services of the other, non-black, funeral homes. So, “I concluded” that I would get my mortuary license and come back to Lansing and open my establishment. This is where “not knowing what I didn’t know” became important. I had no clue of how expensive funeral equipment was or that local banks typically did not make business loans to open a funeral home, unless you had significant collateral backed up with a solid business plan. I worked in the industry for almost 10 years.
What are some of your greatest accomplishments?
I am most pleased and humbled by the positive impact that I was able to make in the lives of people that I worked with during my time in corporate America. There were quite a few (many more than I thought) people who talked with me during the weeks and months leading up to my retirement and they shared “how my belief in them, and their abilities”, empowered them to have confidence in themselves and to excel beyond what they thought themselves to be capable of. For me that is powerful and awesome. That is the difference between lifting people up and tearing people down. According to most, (myself included) people thought I was a hard task master; however, I was fair, honest, and people trusted me and my motives.
Outside of my professional accomplishments my family is the greatest thing that I can claim “some” credit for. I have been blessed with a successful wife and children.
Finally, tell us and describe two things that you are passionate about.
LIFE. Being ALIVE. I am grateful for each day that I wake up to in the morning and lay down to sleep in at night. LIfe is fragile. LIfe is precious and should be treated as such; instead of being taken for granted. Not everybody that went to sleep last evening woke up this morning. Not everybody who awoke this morning will lie down in their bed this evening and go to sleep. There are people who left home this morning/afternoon going to work who did not make it back home at the end of their workday. The one thing I tell people about “being healthy” is “you are only healthy until you receive the diagnosis that you are NOT healthy”. And, the distance between being being in good health and having a health challenge is measured in seconds. I am always mindful of my little aches, pains, and discomforts, and I think of the many people who have worse circumstances and would love to only have a few aches, pains, and discomforts.
I am most passionate about my belief in God. There are two words that I tell everyone; which are “Trust God”. As I look back over my life, I am able to see how He sustained me, blessed me, protected me, and my family. I am not so arrogant to believe that I have achieved great things, experienced success, been productive in society and my community because of “how great I am”. Yes, I do possess talents and skills which contributed towards those things, but I know that it was God’s presence in my life that cultivated and enhanced them in a manner that allowed me to become a man who could comfortably and confidently walk with integrity, dignity, and humility; while being flawed and imperfect. AND, I know that God will do that same for anyone who makes the choice to follow Him. There is nothing special about me, I just choose to trust God.
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