Bruce Rosenberg of Rock Hill died last year of cancer. Brutal.
But Rosenberg lives on, worldwide now, in milk fat and smiles and love.
Around the world today, thousands of people who never met each other will eat ice cream for breakfast because of a guy most of them never met.
Rosenberg died on March 12, 2012 – nine days before his dream could come true.
But his dream did not die. It grew. It bloomed. It blossomed inside ice cream churns in deserts and oases in Arabia and Australia and cities and towns across America.
On Facebook it is called the Second Annual Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day on March 21. It has more than 30,000 people signed up.
“It just has become huge,” said Julie Rosenberg, Bruce’s widow, who somehow through the past year has been able smile much of the time. “People have taken to it. It is incredible, amazing.”
Rosenberg’s hope was for anybody with a tongue and a smile to eat ice cream for breakfast on March 21 – the same date in 2011 that he was diagnosed with cancer – to show that life is meant to be lived no matter how rough it gets.
On this day, lactose and sugar and cream are all good. Let the doctor wait until tomorrow to yell. Ice cream can and will make somebody smile, and maybe even live, because of Bruce Rosenberg.
Rosenberg’s guts and style – he wanted no mourners, only smilers to live life fast and free and with love – spread after his death through the Internet across continents from his Rock Hill home.
Hundreds of people ate ice cream instead of oatmeal last year on March 21. After coverage spread from heraldonline.com, people joined in worldwide.
Rosenberg fought his cancer but never asked for pity. He loved his wife and his daughters, Ella and Lucy, and encouraged them to dream and dare right up to the day he died. He inspired people he played Internet “Lord of the Rings” games with, and refused any tears.
Rosenberg, through his smile and courage and selflessness – and now his ice cream day – is immortal.
“He wanted this to take off and it has,” Julie Rosenberg said. “And maybe through this, others who have had to deal with such adversity can realize that the person who was lost would have wanted the rest of us to continue living.
“I hope it continues to grow. That’s what he would have wanted.”
There are planned ice cream eaters this year from Florida to Vancouver and all parts in between, including the Stafford Park neighborhood in Rock Hill where the Rosenberg family lives.
This is a home where Bruce, despite his being Jewish, would vie each year to be the neighborhood Christmas lights champion – complete with a lighted Star of David and his pickup truck covered with lights.
His neighbors kept vigil for Rosenberg before he died, and they still do for his family.
“People here will be eating ice cream again for breakfast, for sure,” said neighbor Julie Derry.
Rosenberg so thumbed his nose at cancer – his was a horrible strain that started under an arm pit – that he named it “Humperdink.” He loved it when the mascot became a unicorn that had bad gas.
Self-described Internet geeks who played those online games with him formed The Pit Crew, named for Rosenberg’s arm pit. They all ate ice cream, and will again today.
Even Mama’s Coffee House in Pineville, N.C. – just across the state line on N.C. 51 – will offer a special today in honor of Rosenberg: Ice cream in the coffee.
In Florida, longtime Rosenberg family friend Katie Scott – a lawyer who drives a minivan to take her kids to soccer practice – will eat pints of ice cream with her kids. Scott has spearheaded the online effort to make the day huge and international.
“This is one day we all can eat ice cream for breakfast and show what life is all about,” she said. “Life is about living.”
Cancer is horrible. Death is worse. But on a little street in Rock Hill, a movement started with Bruce Rosenberg himself. And now his wife and daughters and neighbors and friends around the world are asking all to live a little, whether somebody is sick or not.
So hide the Grape-Nuts. Tell the doctor to lighten up. Let the ice cream melt down the cone onto your fingers, and then lick your fingers clean.
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