If anyone could put up a fight, it was Sharon Rizzo.



She lived most of her life in East Rochester, N.Y., and passed away on Sept. 23. She was born in Batavia, N.Y., and spent part of her childhood in Scottsville before she moved to East Rochester, where she would meet her future husband Tony in high school. They settled in a home on Woodbine Avenue, where their two children grew up.

If anyone could put up a fight, it was Sharon Rizzo.

She lived most of her life in East Rochester, N.Y., and passed away on Sept. 23. She was born in Batavia, N.Y., and spent part of her childhood in Scottsville before she moved to East Rochester, where she would meet her future husband Tony in high school. They settled in a home on Woodbine Avenue, where their two children grew up.

During that time she dove headfirst into school activities, and spent years as a cheerleading coach and judge. Her loved ones say she was the type of person others would look to for leadership.

Unfazed by stress or a heavy workload, she spent her last few years working in the executive offices at Highland Hospital as an administrative assistant, even through chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer.

Her cancer came in two waves — first in 1982 and again in 2008.

“Her motto was 'don’t give up the fight until the end,'” said her husband. “Never, never, never quit.”

In life, she was the kind of woman who never missed a birthday and kept track of her granddaughter’s number of hits at a softball game. It wasn’t uncommon for her to bring squirt guns into the house and, of course, have a good laugh with her family.

As the disease slowly took effect, it was rare to hear Rizzo complain. She maintained her sense of humor until the very end and did her best to avoid the sympathy of others.

“Because she was so strong we really believed she was going to beat it,” said daughter Cathy Scumaci.

Her impact on others was evident not only by the 300 guests who came to pay their respects at her funeral, but the way her own struggle inspired others to reach out to others hurt by the disease.

This month the Rizzo family braved the cold rain to take part in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk downtown Rochester. The annual event drew 8,700 people whose lives have been touched by the disease who gathered to honor their loved ones and help raise money for the American Cancer Society.

“Team Sharon” raised more than $4,000 for ACS.

Rizzo’s son Sam Rizzo led a team that also rallied to helped raise more than $6,000 for cancer research. Through this support, Sam says, there can be hope for even the most resilient women and their families. He reflected on his own mother’s silent battle.

“She played it down a lot,” he said. “She wanted us to believe she was not suffering, but on the inside she was in pain.”

Sharon Rizzo left her family with the hope that the women in her family will get tested for the disease.

“She wanted us to continue living collectively and become more aware of our health,” said Rizzo’s sister Kim Smith. “She’d say, in order to be there you’ve got to take care of yourself.”