CHARLES TOWN—Ralph and Dr. Rosie Lorenzetti have been married almost 45 years. Ralph is soft spoken and reserved, while Rosie is more animated and boisterous; and when they reminisce together, they do not always agree.
When recalling the maximum number of cats, they once had, she swore there were 16. Ralph claims 19. When discussing their wedding, they could not agree on the number of attendees.
“We got married in Fallansbee, WV, Rosie’s hometown. I wanted a small wedding. She said, ‘Ok, I will only invite my first and second cousins.’ I had 30 people there and she had 170,” he said.
“I had 300 people,” she corrected him. “They were relatives. Or we were baptized, and they were your cousins. Italians are like – a lot of people in your extended family. I had several med school friends—"
“She’s related to the whole town,” he said.
But Rosie and Ralph do agree on many things—like the fact that they both make great partners, and parents, and now grandparents. Or the fact that they each have deep admiration for each other’s carefully cultivated careers—hers as a doctor and educator, his as an engineer-turned lawyer, prosecutor, and former Jefferson County Commissioner.
The couple, this year’s winners of the Distinguished Citizens Award for Jefferson County, WV, recently sat down at their home nestled in Jefferson county on 50 plus acres overlooking the Blue Ridge mountains to talk about their many memories they have amassed over the last 4 decades.
Many in the community know the Lorenzetti’s as proud parents to two sons and to three grandchildren. They know Ralph as a lawyer, a former coach, and former County Commissioner. They know Rosie as a doctor and an educator.
But what many may not know is that Rosie – is a fearless adventurer—and Ralph is her fellow adventurer.
“I am not as adventurous as Rosie,” Ralph said.
Rosie claims she was not always fearless. In fact, she attributes her ability to be fearless to Ralph. According to Rosie, there was one adventure, early on in their marriage, that made all the difference.
“There was the very first scuba trip we ever went on. I do not even remember what island we were on or where we were. I wouldn’t get out of the boat,” she recalled.
“It was in Key Largo, Key West,” Ralph reminded her.
“I had my tank on and I just got very afraid,” she said. “The guy was like you have to jump in we are out here now, and I was like, ‘I can’t’. I can’t.’ And then Ralph swam around the boat and he was in the water and said, ‘I am here. Nothing will happen to you.’ To this day, I remember thinking, ‘nothing bad will ever happen to me, as long as Ralph is around.’ It was like this overwhelming of you’ve got my back.’ We were early on in our marriage. Before kids. I just thought, I am always going to be alright. Nothing bad will happen if Ralph is here.”
He promised he would be by her side. And 45 years later, that continues to be true.
A Chance Meeting and a Wedding
Rosie and Ralph’s love story began because of a chance meeting at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Ralph’s first career was as an environmental engineer. He had been working at the EPA for 3 years. Rosie had just finished her Sophomore year in college, and after two frustrating internships, she applied to the EPA on a whim.
“I just showed up at the EPA office in Wheeling and said hey I took this government test and I think I did pretty good, can I have a job?”
“Did you tell her what we met over?” Interrupted Ralph. “I was the engineering crew, but she showed up in the hall with a bottle of sewage. That’s what we met over,” he recalled.
“The little secretary was like, ‘There is this nice Italian man in the basement. I was in the chemistry lab and he was in the basement. And there were three girl interns and one engineer and two chemists. So, the three of those guys and the three interns met up and had dinner together. Then he came up to me and I had my little bottle of sewage.”
Ralph went to see her in Morgantown the next year to take her out, and she had a skeleton in her apartment that she was going over the bones with.
“I said something about the bones to her and she said, ‘I’m going up to see my cadaver here shortly.’ That was my first real date in Morgantown with her and I am looking at cadavers.”
“Hey, if he can’t handle a cadaver…,” said Rosie. “It was a test!”
After dating three years, they got married while Rosie was in her second year of med school. Ralph, who hailed from Arlington, VA, and Rosie, whose family was in the Northern Panhandle. They decided to put down roots in Jefferson County, which was in between. Rosie opened a practice with a med school friend, and they have been here ever since.
Love and Similarities Kept them Together.
The Lorenzetti’s had a lot in common. Both raised in Italian Catholic families and attended Catholic schools.
“I don’t want to say we have the same interests—but we have enough interests the same. We both were scuba divers, we used to water ski, we like the water, we snow skied, and even our boys were growing up they liked to travel with us.”
Rosie agreed. “We both loved being outside and career oriented. The mountains. The water. Want to buy a house on a lake someday,” she said.
Favorite Volunteer Roles
Despite both working full-time, they raised their sons plus found time to always volunteer in the community.
Ralph had a few volunteer roles that were his favorites.
“I was in Kiwanis a long time and we did a Santa’s toy shop every year. We raised money and then basically had a store. Parents would come in and shop for the toys and didn’t have to pay for them. We’ve done that for 20 years now,” he said.
He also fondly recalls raising money for the Old Opera House, and helping his former boss, Mike Thompson, who was prosecutor before him, get a grant for the Day Report Center, an alternate sentencing for the courts.
Rosie’s favorite volunteer work has been educating students.
“I was thinking for me it always seemed to go back to schools. I would be the one to go into the 5th grade and talk to the girls about their menstrual periods, having self-esteem programs in the grade school, or 6 graders at risk. It always seems to keep going back to education. That is all volunteer work.”
Rosie has had med students shadow her, taught med students at Shepherd, and brought graduate students from WVU to teach the undergrad students at Shepherds Biology department.
“I love working with students. I feel they keep me young. They make me think,” she said.
An Award and an Anniversary Celebration
Rosie said she was excited to receive the award.
“It’s nice to be able to talk about your love for kids and scouts and education and community service,” said Rosie.
“I was happy, “Ralph said. “I’m proud to be grouped with them – Bill Senseney and the Perrys.”
Rosie was surprised that they would be receiving their award together on their anniversary.
“Of all days! They didn’t know it and they picked June 12. Yes, 45 years is a long time,” said Rosie. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel very long at all. Sometimes it feels like it is forever. It depends on the day.”
Balancing Family and Career
Ralph, started out as an engineer, but decided to try a new career when commuting to the EPA became too much.
“My mom had always loved Perry Mason,” he said. “So, I decided to become a lawyer.”
He has worked on a variety of cases but says his most rewarding was helping children find safety in abuse cases.
Ralph’s career was much more structured schedule than Rosie’s.
“I always felt like Ralph was the stable one,” said Rosie. “Because he knew he would go to work at 8:30 and he would get off at 4:30. And my schedule was very unpredictable.”
“Let me point out that the first 5 years of practice Rosie was delivering babies,” Ralph said. “I’d get calls in the middle of the night saying, ‘My wife’s in labor what do I do? And I’d say, you are talking to the wrong person. Let me pass the phone to my wife.’”
After being a family doctor, Rosie transitioned in the past five years to working with diabetes patients. She also continues to teach, work with interns, and plan courses.
Rosie admires how her husband has took the lead on raising their boys.
“I think his biggest accomplishment is our kids,” she said. “I really do. Ralph has always just been there for the boys. I know he liked his jobs, and he liked his service roles. But whatever the kids needed, ‘Dad we need a coach for the golf team,’ and he would say, ‘Ok I’ll do it.’ Lacrosse team, ‘Ok, I’ll do it.’ He wasn’t the house husband because he had his own job. He did that but still had his own career.”
Ralph said he feels like Rosie has done a lot too.
“She’s had a residency program, the medical school, and at the same time she doesn’t give herself credit. She was involved with the kids quite a bit. I think both – she has given them a lot of attention. None of them are afraid to call and ask her for help. I think that says a lot about Rosie. A lot of her friends call her for help too. I ask for help and sometimes she tells me to take an aspirin and call her in the morning.”
Ralph admits that Rosie comes up with wild ideas and he goes along with them. One memorable one, was during a medical trip to Fiji.
“5 years prior, I had a 6-vessel bypass. In Fiji, Rosie signed us up for a shark dive. And I said, ‘Well ok. Are there cages?’ The guy said, ‘Well, we don’t use no cages.’”
Ralph had spoken to his cardiologist, who approved diving, but not below 60 feet.
“We get down there and I looked at my gauge and it’s 110 feet. And there were big sharks. One tiger, the rest of them are bull sharks and the guy feeds them fish and they were just chomping away. They said whatever you do, don’t hold your hand out,” said Ralph. “They told us, nobody had been attacked…yet.”
The next night Ralph had trouble with his heart and ended up in the hospital with a heart attack. Rosie organized a medivac back to Australia.
“The doctor said one of my 6 bypasses had closed, luckily the smallest one. He said don’t do anything stressful. So, what did we do? We took a bus ride through Australia and went out to a coal mine which turned out to be a roller coaster.”
“He was like, ‘Is she trying to kill me?’” Rosie said.
“No, she took care of me the whole time,” Ralph said.
Right before the Pandemic, they had another great adventure to Korea to meet their granddaughter’s Korean relatives.
“I am not as adventurous as Rosie. We were in Korea and she ate something I’ll never eat,” said Ralph.
“Chicken legs, chicken feet…” Rosie started.
“No,” he said. “You ate some bugs too.”
“Oh yeah, larvae,” said Rosie. “It was some sort of crunchy thing, like a corn chip. Larvae was a surprise. I must admit. As long as he is there, I’ll do it!”