CAÑON CITY — "It's my opinion that she's a casualty of COVID." With a quivering voice, Shari Rogers told the City Council of Cañon City about the death of her daughter Rochelle Ratto.
The owner of a small business on the town's main street took her own life just days ago. Rogers learned the council was discussing the tragedy and what more the city could do to aid business owners and others who might be struggling in the midst of the pandemic.
“I’m not here to criticize in any way,” Rogers said. Even before her daughter's funeral she wanted to be there to offer insight and ideas.
"We've been shattered by it," said Cañon City Mayor Ashley Smith. Cañon City is a small town and Ratto was known by most everybody in the community. "She was just voted as the best new business in Cañon City.”
Ratto was ready to open the doors of Boat Barn Bagels, her new business, when the pandemic hit. During an interview with News5 shortly after opening, she said, “With regulations and restrictions and variances changing so frequently it’s been difficult to create a plan.”
Her mother said there were things her daughter never imagined. Most of her employees, for example, were school-aged students. There was no ill intent, but when they were told they had to isolate, Ratto suddenly lost all her staff.
"She just couldn't take it anymore. She tried, she tried, she tried," said Rogers.
In the wake of the tragedy, COVID-19 numbers are again increasing in Colorado.
"Now with a rise in cases during the fall months there is incredible anxiety,” said Mayor Smith, “Am I going to be shut down again? Is my capacity going to be lowered again?"
The City Council is looking at more ways to help locals impacted by COVID-19. Financial aid options remain important, but the council is looking at broader impacts of COVID.
“Pay attention to their mental and emotional health as well,” said Smith. The Ratto tragedy has prompted the idea of creating of pool of locals who may be able to provide temporary staffing if COViD takes out employees.
“It’s our responsibility to help one another and care for one another,” said Rogers. She wants to prevent the tragedy she is dealing with, from happening to others.
Members of the community are fundraising to help Ratto’s family with funeral expenses. A marketing slogan and motto started by Ratto is the phrase “Spread Cream Cheese Not Hate.”
It is the title for an online fundraiser. The is also a T-shirt printed with the phrase, available at many Cañon City businesses. Proceeds go toward Ratto’s expenses.