By Steve Virgen
2:30 PM PDT, October 22, 2013
There were events that involved Costa Mesa High School cheer or athletics when Sue Ross would show what she was all about: amazing, loyal and loving.
"She would say, 'I am doing chemo in the morning, but I can be there by 3,'" said Kori Johnson, the Costa Mesa cheer coach. "Or she would say, 'I'm getting a blood transfusion, but I can be there later in the day.'"
Ross, a Costa Mesa booster whose two daughters are on the school's cheer squad, died of cancer Sunday morning at age 53. She is survived by her husband, Kea, and their two daughters, Andrea and Allie.
Ross was in hospice the past three weeks, as her family and the Costa Mesa community tried to prepare for the end. And now they are all in mourning.
They watched as Ross showed such grace and a positive attitude throughout the past 4 1/2 years of battling cancer.
"She wanted to keep the household normal, especially for the kids," Kea Ross said. "That's what we tried to do. She never stopped volunteering for the kids and for the high school. She never quit."
Sue Ross was known for her energy and sense of humor. She would say she appeared to be pregnant after the medicinal drugs left her bloated, just so she could get a laugh, said Mary Ann Dasca, a friend who is also a Costa Mesa cheer mom.
"She always wanted to make you feel better," Dasca said. "She never wanted to ask for help. She was a very strong lady. She's a good role model for everything she's been through."
Ross was also known to style hair and apply makeup for her daughters and their teammates on the cheer squad. She would travel with them to various competitions, celebrating with the Costa Mesa cheerleaders their several awards.
Many mothers and friends in Costa Mesa are reaching out to Ross' two daughters, Andrea, 15, and Allie, 17. They know that even the simple act of styling hair and applying makeup will never be the same without their mother around.
It is a difficult time for the family and the community.
"Her daughters are in shock," said Theresa Green, a longtime friend who is very close to the family. "When she started this battle, we were all aware of what the outcome could be. Now that it came, and the fact that she fought so hard, I just think it was really shocking for the girls. There is no greater love than a mother's love. My heart aches for them."
Green said she became friends with Ross after their husbands started golfing together at the Costa Mesa Country Club in 1987. Throughout the years, their lives intertwined as they attended birthday parties for their children, holiday gatherings and other events.
Just three years ago, Ross and her family played a key part in Green adopting a girl, Maraide, who is now a sophomore water polo player and swimmer at Estancia. Maraide was a close friend of Andrea's who was seeking a better family life.
"I'm 47 years old," Green said. "I haven't had too many adult moments without Sue. I don't have a [biological] sister, so she is my sister."
Recently Ross' cancer spread to her liver, leaving hospice as the only option.
Several friends, neighbors and others in the community continually showed support for the family when times were rough. They continue to show support.
The players on the Costa Mesa football team wore on their cheeks pink stickers with Ross' name on them instead of the traditional eye black for football games.
"There is such community love for that family," said Katrina Foley, a Costa Mesa booster whose son, Sammy, is dating Andrea. "Sue definitely made a positive impression on a lot of people."
This week, the Costa Mesa cheerleaders will sell T-shirts to raise money to help the family cover expenses. The T-shirts bear a logo that many are using as their Facebook profile picture. It's a pink mustang with a pink ribbon as a background, similar to what the Denver Broncos are using during the NFL's campaign for breast cancer awareness this month.
Ross was a volunteer for that cause. She enjoyed attending the Race for the Cure event in Newport Beach with the Costa Mesa cheerleaders last year. But she didn't attend last month because of the advanced nature of her illness.
"She was a fireball," Dasca said. "Since she was diagnosed, I never heard her complain. She worked her treatments around the events for cheer. She never missed a game.… She looked out for all the girls. A lot of the parents couldn't go to those events and she took care of them."
Kea Ross said he met his wife at the Costa Mesa Country Club, where she was a bartender earning money for cosmetology school.
A memorial service for Ross is set for noon Thursday at St. John The Baptist Roman Catholic Church, 1015 Baker St., in Costa Mesa. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that money be donated to breast cancer awareness and research, said Kea Ross.
Of the community support, he said, "It's just been awesome."