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THE HARTFORD COURANT
Daughter Lives Her Life With Memories Of Her Musical Father, Who Died Too Young
By Helen Ubinas
January 13, 2003
Milton Rosado would have loved his funeral. It had everything he always said he wanted at the gathering: family, friends and music - lots of music.
Old friends and fellow musicians sat at the front of the Hartford funeral home and played songs he loved. A young boy, probably no older than 8, played along with them. Rosado would have gotten a kick out of that, since he was about that age when he first picked up a guitar in Maricao, Puerto Rico, and taught himself to play.
He was a quiet celebrity, a musician who played anywhere and everywhere, whom everyone knew and everyone looked for when they wanted the best in jibaro music, Puerto Rican folk songs - although Rosado played a little of everything and just about every traditional Puerto Rican instrument around. No one sang a bolero the way Milton did, fellow musicians said.
He played for not much money and sometimes no money at all, which is why, when he died suddenly a few weeks before Christmas, friends donated thousands to help the family bury him. The church his oldest daughter, Omaris Journet, attends donated money, too.
It was enough to pay for the funeral, but not enough for a grave marker. So the physical education coordinator for Hartford's Middle Magnet School's Boys & Girls Club, where Journet works, started a penny drive, motivating the kids to collect as much as they could. Grand prize: a pizza party.
Group 2 is leading, or at least it was last week. But Group 5 is on the rise, a staff member says, smiling and carrying bottles of pennies for safekeeping into an office.
When Journet came back to work and found out about the penny drive, all she could do was cry.
Journet, of course, always thought her father was wonderful - he was humble, a joker with a smile never as big as when he played his music. But it wasn't until the DeLeon Funeral Home swelled with people that she realized how many her father and his music had touched.
Rosado lived for music. He played when life was good, and when it wasn't. At 43, he suffered from chronic asthma and diabetes. The smoke-filled clubs he played and fatty foods he ate probably didn't help.
Journet tried to talk to him about it. She was studying physical education at Central Connecticut State University, and learning how dangerous diabetes and asthma could be, and she saw how it was affecting her father.
But there was something else, something she never told him but that had recently struck her: My father probably won't ever get to walk me down the aisle.
But Rosado always said a life without music wasn't a life worth living. Live your life, he'd tell Journet, no matter what. She smiles. "You can't change an old man's ways, especially an old Puerto Rican man."
When Journet's mother called and told her to come home, she knew. And, she thinks, he had known he was going to die soon, too. A few months before the heart attack, he finally accepted Journet's long-standing invitation to come to church with her. A little later, he asked a friend to take care of his family if anything ever happened to him.
Journet had recently gone to watch her father play on Park Street. None of his kids had ever seen him play at a club; at 22, Journet was finally old enough. He introduced her to everyone, and dedicated a song to her. They danced.
"He glowed that night," she says. "He was the happiest man alive."
She thinks that's how she'll always remember him, beating the bongos, singing and smiling - always smiling.
Live your life no matter what. She remembered that, keeping up her grades even while missing and mourning her father. She ended her last semester with a 3.8 average.
The kids at the Boys & Girls Club are still collecting pennies, and the family hasn't picked out a marker yet, but Journet thinks they'll probably go with something simple: maybe his name and an imprint of bongos.