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The world responds to Rock Hill man’s dying legacy: Ice cream for breakfast!

The Russians ate rocky road and the Viennese vanilla.

They ate pistachio in Perth and strawberry in Scotland and chocolate in Canada.

Praline in Prague at sunrise.

All around the earth Wednesday – no matter when morning was, disregarding what any quack doctor had demanded, without regard for lactose intolerance that will have spouses sleeping on couches to avoid alimentary canal crises worse than anything in Panama or Suez – thousands of people ate ice cream for breakfast.

And each one of them, people all the same, indulged. Muslims and Christians messed up their clothes and ruined their diets. Jews and Taoists giggled until their sides hurt, to honor a single man from Rock Hill – way over here in South Carolina.

A man, Bruce Rosenberg, who died a terrible death from cancer March 12 but chuckled right to the very end and wanted the whole world to eat ice cream for breakfast.

Using the Facebook page “Ice Cream For Breakfast Day” as a calculator, about 4,000 people ate ice cream for breakfast around the country and world. Certainly there were more who did not admit it.

Even better, these adults stuffed their kids with ice cream until the kids begged them to stop.

In some place called Stoke on Trent, United Kingdom, a woman named Laura Baskeyfield – who never met Rosenberg except online – took her kids for Nutella ice cream with marshmallow hearts and jelly hearts and lips.

Yes, candy lips.

In Sheffield, England, kids Barnaby Finn Roscamp and Solomon Leo Roscamp – who never met Bruce Rosenberg and were not telling the guy who served them ice cream at sunrise the what or why anyway – ate ice cream for breakfast.

Bruce Rosenberg, 41, was diagnosed with cancer – lymphoma that invaded his body like a cavalry charge – exactly a year ago Wednesday, March 21, 2011.

His response was to ban all bawling, suffer brutal treatments and pain and surgeries anyway, and still ask the whole real world of people he knew – and so many more he met on the Internet – to throw caution to the wind. To laugh and eat up and hug the kids.

Rosenberg asked all to stick out a tongue at those who talk of skinny waists and despise butterfat, and eat ice cream on the anniversary of his diagnosis.

“Live it up with the kids and everybody you love,” is how Rosenberg described it to me a few months before he died, while in treatment. “Who doesn’t like ice cream? The whole world loves ice cream. Maybe this can unite people, make them understand they are more alike than different.”

The plan, like Rosenberg the wacky wildman who became the Jewish champion of Rock Hill Christmas lights contests, just went crazy.

In Sydney, Australia, a Russian Orthodox Moscovite expatriate who had given up sweets for Lent relented. Bruce Rosenberg, total stranger from the other side of the earth who was just a noble name online, mattered that much.

The Russian from Down Under ate as much ice cream as his belly would hold. It is unclear if he washed it down with beer or vodka, but Rosenberg, no teetotaler, would have hoped it was both.

People ate like horses in the Carolinas and Tennessee and California. An entire hospice staff in Rock Hill that had helped Rosenberg during his illness ate ice cream by the spoonful and tubful. And just down the street from where Rosenberg lived in Rock Hill, and where his wife, Julie, and their two daughters remain, people ate ice cream.

“I never eat ice cream for breakfast, and my husband sure is not supposed to – digestion and ice cream are not friends, to say it nicely – but we ate ice cream in honor of my great neighbor,” said Rock Hill’s Carolyn Hall. “Bruce showed you only live once. He inspired people.”

It was Rosenberg’s fight for life while dying, his refusal to yield to pain and pity, that turned what started as a neighborhood idea for ice cream eating into a worldwide phenomenon.

“Bruce was right there with me at the cancer center in Florida, and he is worried about me, not himself,” said Wendy Loose of Port Charlotte, Fla. “He was dying, and he was telling me to make sure I treasured my kids as he did his daughters. I will never forget him.

“My kids, all of us, ate ice cream this morning. Java mash-up.”

Karen Kennedy and other mothers and kids – in Abu Dhabi of all places – ate ice cream. Many of the people around the country and world played “The Lord of the Rings” online game with Rosenberg over the years, they never met him. Still, they ate every flavor there is – including at Baskin Robbins in Abu Dhabi, where in Arabic ice cream tastes just as great and even better at breakfast.

“Bruce Rosenberg never met these thousands of people – and it grows each day – whose lives were touched by him,” said Leigh Morphies of Welcome, N.C., who never met Rosenberg, either except online. “This man made a mark on the earth.”

March 21, certainly next year, will be celebrated again as Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, because of Bruce Rosenberg of Rock Hill.

He showed the world is far smaller through the Internet – and friends can be made through the simplest of courageous gestures.

Ella, the oldest of two Rosenberg daughters, ate mint chocolate chip, her dad’s favorite.

And yes, Julie Rosenberg, who lost her husband last week and has somehow hung in there like a sailor in a gale, steadfast at the helm in choppy seas, sure ate ice cream Wednesday as she watched her computer go bonkers with messages on Facebook from all over the world.

“Coffee – with vanilla ice cream,” said Julie Rosenberg. “Bruce is smiling at this day. His dream came true.”

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