Rose was the prettiest of the six Smith girls. At 15, older sister Mollie took Rose to dances as a guy-magnet. After the boys approached, Mollie came in with the charm. that magnitism stayed with mom until the end.Like lots of depression era girls Mom quit Northern High for beauty school. Soon, she married Newt to remove a financial burden from her folks. Rose dumped him quickly breaking his heart judging by his last letter to her. He begged to see her once more with a final 1938 plea that read: “You are probably unaware that you kept me tied down but it’s a fact. As long as I knew you were not married I couldn’t look at another girl” Too bad, poor guy, Rose was done with him.
There are many similar letters that I read to her in the last couple of years. Another was from a gal who furiously claimed her boyfriend dumped her because he was in love with Rose. When I asked about that suitor, Mom said he was some guy in the receiving department at Sam’s department store whom she never even dated.
As soon as Morrie Surath, a two-sport athlete at Western Michigan College and nine years her senior, met Rose, he snagged her and hung on for 41 years never looking at another woman.
When I was seven my parents had an adult party in our cool finished Detroit basement rec room. I was hanging out thinking I was the life of the party when mom called me over and whispered quietly in my ear: “Get upstairs to bed, before I tear every hair out of your head.” That is the only time I remember her being upset with me.
Morrie’s successful Janitorial Supply business allowed mom to give back to many Jewish charities. I remember being dragged to the Jewish Home for the Aged to help with the monthly birthday parties she ran. Who would have guessed at the time she would one day be a resident.
Most important was her Mahjong group. Betty Wexler, Betty Brecker, Rose Galinsky and Bertha Wilson played at least once a week for many years. They set up a card table in the living room and we only showed up to try the sweets the hostess provided.
My sister Alice married early and quickly started a family. Grandma Rose helped raise her four grandchildren often taking them in for long periods. Grandaughter Leslie was mom’s roommate for many years. At one time or another Randy, Adam, and Lee also lived with her. When anyone asked, my mom was there to help.
I admire her amazing ability to look the other way when all of us did things most Jewish moms would not have sanctioned. She didn’t judge…just took what came her way. When I married an African American girl in the 70s they became close friends. My Afro-British wife and mother of my daughter the lovely Marlo was welcomed with open arms. And lastly and forever, I married a petite woman (oh, and she is Filipino), also loved by Mom who misses her terribly.
Marlo and Grandma were cuddle buddies. Marlo loved going to grandma’s house for gashouse eggs when we visited from California. Two years ago when mom was seriously ill, the mention that Marlo would be home from school soon kept mom alive. Marlo spent quality hours hanging with Grandma whenever she was home from college.
Morrie died in 1980 and Abbott closed soon thereafter. Transitioning from a society matron to a 63 year old widow living on social security didn’t seem to faze Mom at all. She started a business driving her friends to their doctor’s appointments which continued until she was 85 when she finally decided to live with us in San Francisco. Her Chevy Lumina was towed all the way out there but Mom decided she couldn’t handle the hills and gave up driving.
She lived with my wife, Susana, my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, Marlo and her mom, Adam, myself, and an extended family of Ukrainians for a couple of years in our 3 unit Richmond district building. Mom often attended a day program at San Francisco’s Jewish Home and was so popular they invited her to the head of the eight-year waiting list whenever she was ready.
When it was necessary to place Mrs. Sanchez in an Alzheimer’s facility, we moved to a smaller place but Mom chose the Jewish Home. She had a little too much money to get in so we spent all the excess on her funeral seven years ago on New Year’s Eve. As we sat there planning, the funeral director said it was unusual to have someone discuss their funeral so matter of factly. “What do I care? I’m gonna be dead” was her straightforward answer.
In the first few years at the home Rose made money playing bingo and gave me her winnings, which I used for parking. She also saved banana's for me. If I didn't come to visit for more than a week I had to look under the seat of her walker for rotten ones.
We picked mom up to join in the many get-togethers at our home involving Susana’s extended family who loved and expected Rose to party with them. At our first party after she no longer lived with us, we piled Filipino nephews Daniel & Jesse, whom we often babysat, into the car with Grandma Rose to drive her home. Daniel was troubled, so upset, and asked why Grandma Rose couldn’t just live with us. They loved Grandma Rose.
In the latter years when she could no longer travel we had her birthday and Passover at the Jewish Home on her expense account. Taking care of us until the end. It was the only time warring factions of our family could be in the same room together.
She took care of people until the end. The staff at the home loved her because she never complained. She also was the best looking woman in F2. At her memorial service one of her friends took the mike and said:
"When Rose came to the Home I contacted the staff photographer and said you have to use this new women in your publicity shots. She's beautiful."
They did what she said and made a ten foot long poster that hung in the halls for seven years until we took it home after she died. When Daniel saw the larger than life poster he asked my sister-in-law Anita:
"Is Grandma Rose famous?"
At the end Mom lived on Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bars and Boost. Two days before she died I fed her chocolate ice cream and coffee with Sweet and Low.Mom never met her great grandson little Oscar Genser but her passing gave the rest of us a chance to see him in Detroit as a baby which we otherwise would have missed. Rose Surath-my mom. What a life!
Causes Don Surath Supports
Alzheimers Association, Jewish Home of San Francisco, Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education, American Bone Health, American Diabetes...