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Last updated: Fri. Feb. 24, 2012 - 03:48 pm EDT

First Lady of Fort Wayne rock 'n' roll, Sharon Rossi, passed away Thursday night

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Sharon Rossi, whose raspy voice and passion for rock music was a fixture at radio station WXKE, 103.9-FM, for nearly two decades, died Thursday night from highly invasive breast cancer, a co-worker said.

The station, known as Rock 104, played a tribute to her at 1:04 p.m. today, with co-general manager and mid-day host J.J. Fabini planning to read from a letter Rossi wrote to listeners and also playing some songs from a list Rossi put together for use at a gathering following her funeral Mass, said Rick “Doc” West, a longtime Rossi friend and the station's veteran morning show host and program director.

Rossi, who managed local record stores before joining WXKE, had been with the station for about 17 years during the 1980s through the early 2000s, West said. She left the station and local radio about seven years ago.

At her peak, Rossi worked WXKE's afternoon-drive shift, but she is best known as the station's 7 p.m.-midnight host, West said.

“She was the most passionate woman in rock 'n' roll radio here,” West said. “Rock 'n' roll was her life, period, and radio was the vehicle by which she rocked.”

When bands would come to the station to talk and to perform in the studio, Rossi would surprise them with homemade cupcakes, pie or other goodies — “something from the heart,” West said.

Similarly, when Steven Tyler of Aerosmith was in town after the release of the song “Hangman Jury,” Rossi made small earrings shaped liked nooses and gave them to him, West said. She was thrilled when she later saw Tyler wearing the earrings in a photo in a nationally circulated magazine.

One of West's favorite memories is of he and Rossi listening to and discovering great just-released rock music.

“We'd show each other the goosebumps on our arms and go, ‘Damn, that's a good song,'” he recalled.

A detailed party and event planner, Rossi spent the last few weeks planning for a gathering after her funeral Mass, including a list of songs she wanted played, West said. WXKE plans to have a Sharon Rossi Day tribute in a couple of weeks, when it will play the songs on her list, he said.

“She'll never be replaced, especially in today's radio climate,” he added.

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