Candidate looks back on race, forward in life

RICH ROSSWAY

It was quite the ride running for the 109th State House, something I will never forget.

I’ve gained some incredible friends, and lost a few that I guess I never really had. Looking back on my campaign, I recall many powerful experiences. The time a Gwinn couple brought me to tears when they asked to hold hands and pray for me.

Moments like that happened numerous times throughout the campaign, complete strangers praying for me. It was real life, and that will stay with me forever.

Of course, there were the nameless people who stood behind the protection of their keyboard to create rumors against me, standing in judgment without ever meeting me. That was real life too. It truly was the “best of times, the worst of times.”

The campaign held some of the most fulfilling moments of my life, as well as some of the most disheartening and painful. I’ve learned to take the good with the bad and to value every experience that life provides.

When I announced my candidacy, I wanted it to be a positive experience. What fulfilled that desire was that during my journey, I found my faith. When it became too hard to handle, when the anxiety became too great, I gave my life to God. And through my faith, I found refuge.

For that, I thank my dear friend, Mark Waterman. I love him like my brothers. I learned that when the burden is too great, your faith can bring peace and comfort.

After election night, what initially dominated my thoughts were the negative experiences, but slowly my thoughts became more reflective. All that remains now is the kindness that people showed me.

What I found while knocking on 10,000-plus doors is that people care about their families, their health, and their community. What they don’t care about is the political drama and negative media stories at the national level.

I never heard that rhetoric, and was amazed how people were willing to talk objectively, regardless of political identity. Through it all, what I discovered was that Yoopers are genuinely kind. That part of the campaign, I miss.

What is next for me? I do not know. I was “all in” during the campaign, and obviously fell short. At the age of 63, it felt good to step out of my comfort zone and try to do something to make a difference.

Serving my community as a candidate was something, even at this stage of life, which has brought many new and powerful experiences to me.

My family has known since October that I was diagnosed with cancer. The good news is that while moderately aggressive, it is manageable. I’ve lived a full life and am optimistic I still have many years left to be what I love being, a husband and a father.

My family has quietly been carrying this burden, while suffering the painful loss of our mother in law, medical emergencies, and numerous personal struggles.

It’s been a tough couple of months, so as a reminder to those with a penchant to label and judge, please remember that you never know what burdens people carry each day. What people need is empathy and understanding, a kind word, a supportive comment.

What I value most is the unconditional love that I have from my family. My wife, Rita, is truly the most extraordinary woman I have ever known.

Her love and support means everything to me, I will love her forever. My 24-year-old “baby girl” Rhonda is incredible. Her loyalty and love for me warms my heart and I’m so proud of her extraordinary academic accomplishments as the youngest PhD student at NIU.

She is a mentor to me, a resilient and independent woman. My son, Rainger, has grown into a man of integrity. His strength and faith in the Lord has inspired me. He is truly a role model to me.

Also, my mother, Pauline Berry, tirelessly supported me, as did my brothers Steven and Brian Berry. My loyal campaign manager Luke Anthony worked harder than anyone.

My thoughts are clear, I have no regrets. I’ve learned much about life these past months, the good and bad.

My final thought comes from a quote by Ernest Hemingway, “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” We all carry burdens, we all have challenges.

So remember, all we can do is get up to fight another day.

Editor’s note: Rich Rossway was the Republican candidate for the 109th State House of Representstives in the recent general election. He has been a member of the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education for the past 18 years, serving as president of the body for the past five years.