For her entire life, Janice Ann Grosso just wanted to be able to walk, run and play with her friends. Born with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair, Grosso sometimes grew frustrated over her physical limitations.
“I have no doubt Janice is running and playing and hopping around up there. She’s now having a great time for herself,” Sheila Couto of New Bedford said about her lifelong friend, who died Nov. 2, 2020, from COVID-19.
Grosso was 76 and living at the Alden Court Nursing Care and Rehabilitation Center in Fairhaven when she tested positive for the novel coronavirus. She died five days later at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford.
“Janice only weighed 82 pounds, soaking-wet,” Couto said. “She had many problems because of the cerebral palsy. She couldn’t swallow correctly, so she had nothing left to fight with.”
Born and raised in Brockton, Grosso was three weeks older than Couto, whose great-aunt lived two houses away. When visiting their great-aunt, Couto and her two sisters would play with Grosso and take her for walks around the neighborhood in her stroller.
“It just grew into a lifelong friendship,” Couto said.
Grosso was home-schooled and learned to use a typewriter. Through occupational therapy, she learned how to weave on a loom, and would sit on the floor for hours weaving intricate patterns.
“Janice was a brilliant girl,” Couto said. “She could carry on a conversation with the best of them. You just had to learn how to listen to her.”
In 2000, Couto and her sisters brought Grosso and her elderly mother to New Bedford when they fell into dire financial straits. Couto moved them into an apartment that her second great-grandfather had built.
Grosso and her mother would often sit on the couch and watch soap operas together. Grosso was also a voracious reader and would consume novels that Couto would bring to her by the bag-full.
“She read all the time,” Couto said.
Couto’s younger sister, Sherrie, kept Grosso busy with crafts. They would sit at the kitchen table, laughing and talking about life.
“My sister would call her Freddie,” Couto said. “She’d tell her, ‘Freddie, I don’t know how you’ve lived in your body all your life, because I don’t think I could do it. It must have been like a prison for Janice. She had a very sharp mind.”
Grosso also had a gentle, loving spirit.
“She’d give you a hug, and you knew you were hugged,” Couto said. “She was just a loving person.”
Grosso would often smile when people sounded their car horns and waved at her while driving past her front yard in Brockton. Every year, a neighbor would give her a dozen red roses on her birthday.
“That’s how the neighbors were with her,” Couto said. “They loved her, and she loved them.”
In later years, after her mother died and she moved into Alden Court, Grosso continued charming the people around her. One day, the staff there named her the honorary “Queen of Alden Court,” and gave her a red gown and a tiara to match. A male resident named Rocky was selected to be the day’s king.
“Janice thought that was wonderful, and she played the role very well,” Couto said. “Rocky was the king, and they would hold hands. Every time Rocky passed her in the hallway, he’d go, ‘My queen.’ She would giggle. It was precious.”
Couto and her sisters would bring Grosso home with them for holidays and special occasions. Couto would place Grosso on her king-sized bed; Grosso would roll from side to side, laughing the whole time.
“She couldn’t do that in the nursing home, with those little beds they had there,” Couto said. “She found pleasure in that.”
At Grosso’s funeral, Couto delivered the eulogy in which she said her lifelong friend was now free to run, play and do everything she always dreamed of.
“That was her wish,” Couto said. “That was all she wanted.”
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