MIRIAM SEGALOFF – Enterprise Staff Writer
Before her tragic accident nearly six years ago, Gahanna resident Rosemarie Rossetti had never considered entering a pageant, let alone contemplated winning one.
Now, she said, she has her sights set on a national title and the tiara that goes with it.
On Saturday, Rossetti was named the 2004 Ms. Wheelchair Ohio. In July, she will represent the state in the Ms. Wheelchair America competition in Richmond, Va.
“I’m very confident,” Rossetti said from her Eastchester Drive home this week. “I wouldn’t have made the decision to run if I just wanted the state title. I said if I’m going, I’m going all the way.”
This year’s pageant, held in Mansfield, was the second for Rossetti.
In 2002 she was named first runner-up behind Dublin resident Stacy James. James went on to place third in the Ms. Wheelchair America competition that year. An Ohio woman has never won the title in the pageant’s more than 20 years.
Second runner-up in Saturday’s state competition was Grove City resident Jennifer Kilman.
Rossetti, 50, said that when she first told her mother of her plans to enter the pageant, her mother asked if she would be required to do wheelies on stage.
“That’s the kind of thought people have,” Rossetti laughed. “They think it’s about wheelchairs. It’s not. It’s about the person in it. It’s what the person is like on the inside, not the outside.”
In 1998, Rossetti and her husband, Mark Leder, were riding their bicycles on a path in Granville when a 3.5-ton, 80-foot tree fell on her and caused a severe spinal cord injury.
During her five weeks of recovery at The Ohio State University Hospital’s Dodd Hall, a friend arranged for a visit from the then Ms. Wheelchair Ohio, Christine Palmer.
Three years later, Rossetti received a telephone call informing her she had been nominated for the pageant by The Adaptive Adventure Sports Coalition (TAASC).
TAASC, a locally based nonprofit organization for people with disabilities, became familiar with Rossetti through her drive to become active in bicycling again.
At the time of her accident, Rossetti said, she and her husband were “avid recreational enthusiasts.”
“It was something Mark and I shared a lot,” she said. “I wanted to regain it. It took two years to get strong enough.”
It also took a Physical Therapy regimen of three sessions a week and trips to Colorado and Chicago to find the right cycling equipment.
On the second anniversary of her accident, Rossetti and Leder were riding their $4,000, three-wheeled recumbent cycles on same trail where she was injured.
“It was truly a victory to say I’m back again,” Rossetti said.
Before the accident, Rossetti had started her own business – Rossetti Enterprises Inc. – as a speaker, trainer and writer.
She writes a syndicated newspaper column and has published several books, including “Take Back Your Life: Regaining Your Footing After Life Throws You a Curve.”
Since the accident, she said, she has expanded the business to include motivational and inspirational presentations.
“It’s so much more fulfilling,” Rossetti said. “It gives meaning to all that pain I was suffering.”