Pregnant with their first child, many women several decades ago would have dropped out of running sports. Too uncomfortable, too dangerous -- maybe even too un-ladylike, they would have said. Elizabeth “Liz” Ross didn’t buy it. With her oldest daughter Heather on the way, Liz couldn’t imagine giving up her citywide baseball league in the Detroit area. She was the pitcher, and her team needed her, and besides, she had a responsibility to herself to finish the season. Liz pitched right up to delivery day.
Sports are as much a part of Liz as her skin and bones. From her youngest days in Riverview, Michigan in the Detroit area, she thrived on athleticism and even a little danger. As elementary-school-aged girls, in summers Liz -- also known by some of her family and friends as Betty Ann -- and her cousin Mary Anne would scramble up Liz’s grandfather’s cherry tree taller than a house to gorge themselves on the fruits. Liz, of course, was the instigator, clambering high into the canopy and then getting sick to her stomach on so many cherries. But she would laugh and laugh at the thrill.
Liz’s was a tight-woven family. Her father John was a maître d at the Roostertail, one of Detroit’s best-known event halls, and her mother Elizabeth took care of her three children Mike, John and Liz at home. Liz despised roasted chicken but couldn’t keep herself from downing fried chicken wings. Easters in her Greek household were warmed by largelamb roasts. Competition was also a big part of family life. They played poker and pinochle together. At Camp Dearborn, where Liz’s extended family would hang out on Sundays, you could swim or shoot bows and arrows. Liz regularly challenged her older brothers Mike and John to games of tennis or who could throw baseballs or footballs farthest. And after Liz often clobbered them on the court, Mary Anne remembers her cousin would laugh and sometimes taunt them. Because while Liz has always generally been a good sport, who could deny she also loves to win?
It’s little surprise, then, that Liz was drawn to sales. In her 20s, she sold phones and phone service and managed key accounts at the Michigan Bell Telephone Co. Her team beat sales targets and won other corporate events so often -- driven in no small part by Liz’s leadership -- that as a reward they got to dine at many of Detroit’s finest restaurants on the company dime. Her colleague at the time Peggy Patton remembers Liz as instrumental to weaving a network of office friendships. Liz was the ringleader behind skits promoting this or that new phone feature, and after-work get togethers. There were parties and nights on the town, poker games too numerous to count, baseball and bingo sessions. It seemed Liz was always in motion.
Bowling became a decades-long passion starting in her 20s around the time she met her husband and love of her life, Mick Ross. They met in a mixed-gender bowling league and bowled together for a time. Liz became so skilled she joined a traveling league. Peggy recalls Liz handling with aplomb the pressure of anchoring the team, coming through with big scores just when it was needed most. Liz would rack up dozens of bowling trophies and accolades, sometimes proudly regaling family and friends with tales of her 10-pin conquests.
Liz and Mick’s enduring disappointment over trying and failing to conceive for years turned to overflowing joy when Heather was born after Liz’s 39th birthday, and their youngest Kristen came 15 months later. The girls became the highlight of Liz’s life. She stopped working and devoted herself full time to them. She volunteered at the girls’ elementary-school parent-teacher association, coached their t-ball and softball teams and was also a leader in the Girl Scouts. Though she enjoyed going out to eat, making lemon-rice soup for the girls was one of her Greek specialties.
After years of struggling to get pregnant, Liz and Mick were overjoyed with the births of their daughters Heather and Kristen fifteen months apart.
Liz revelled in hosting backyard barbecue parties and later at their lake house in the 1990s, she and the family delighted in swimming and boating. Michigan sports of all stripes also captured her heart, and her love of music and dancing was such an influence that Kristen later would join the music industry.
Liz played on many bowling leagues during several decades, racking up dozens of trophies.
Two years after Liz and Mick moved to the lake house full time in 2003, Mick passed away, and Liz never fully recovered from the sorrow. But her personality was still so bright that she managed to make new friends and keep up with old ones, maintaining a weekly breakfast-club date with her friend Peggy and some girlfriends. And, as ever, sports still are an important part of Liz’s life: She still loves those Michigan sports, whether it’s University of Michigan or Detroit Lions football, the Detroit Tigers baseball team or the Detroit Red Wings hockey team.