Rose Post, longtime Salisbury Post writer, dies

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 21, 2011

By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — After an extended illness, longtime reporter and columnist Rose Post of the Salisbury Post died at 4 this morning at Carillon Assisted Living residence.
Over her career, she became identified so closely with the newspaper and her name was attached to so many stories that many readers thought the Salisbury Post was named for her.
She was 85. Post had retired at the end of September 2007 after 56 years as a reporter and columnist.
Rose Post was a 5-foot-tall dynamo with soulful, penetrating eyes — eyes that would never leave the subjects of her interviews, even as she typed or scribbled notes in her pad.
Friends and coworkers said Post wrote about the human condition within a framework of hope, love and compassion. She often left the people she interviewed feeling as though she were not just a reporter, but a person who loved and cared for them.
Which she did.
It was not unusual to see people approach Post, hug her and remind her how she had entered their lives through one of her stories.
“I never expected the warmth and caring spirit Rose exhibited,” Fred Aggers said in 2007 when he recalled being the subject of a Post story years earlier. “I sensed that this person truly cared and was interested.”
She also never lost a bulldog tenaciousness for pursuing a story.
Photographer James Barringer shared assignments with Post for 45 years.
“I always liked working with Rose,” he said. “She made me feel like part of a team. Rose was born to be a storyteller, and when she learned of a good story, there was no stopping her. No one could say ‘No’ to Rose.”
The always modest Post liked to say the best place any story could go was on the refrigerator. And during her decades as education reporter for the Post, many of her school stories ended up there.
Before becoming a full-time columnist and writing human interest pieces, she covered the local school boards so closely that they reserved seats for her at meetings, almost as an ex-officio member.
Post rejoiced daily in having a job at the newspaper.
“I just thought we were the most privileged group of people who ever lived,” she said once, “and I pinched myself all the time that I got paid for doing what I did, because I was having such a good time.”
Toward the end of her career, many tributes came her way.
In 2005, artists painted her into Salisbury’s downtown mural off West Fisher Street.
Five Salisbury mayors paid tribute to Post with a birthday celebration at City Hall in October 2007. It was officially Rose Post Day in the city.
In December 2007, the newspaper ran a special 16-page Rose Post section, which included readers sharing many of their memories of the writer, reporter and friend. It also reprinted some of her stories.
Some people have saved folders of her work.
She wrote two series of articles about her family’s trips back to her mother’s Latvian homeland, telling the history of Russia and the Soviet Union in a personal and profound way.
From her cluttered corner desk in the newsroom, she covered Desert Storm and the war in Iraq through countless stories of soldiers from here.
She bravely did some ground-breaking work on AIDS, when people were just beginning to understand what the disease was.
Other stories penned by Rose Post were just as memorable, such as a piece on a local Vietnamese immigrant accused of killing a Charlotte man and her consistent reporting on the difficult years of integration, then the merger of city and county schools.
A fearless, aggressive reporter, she seldom backed off any assignment.
Rose and the newspaper were sued in 1984 for invasion of privacy connected to stories of a Wisconsin couple who came to Salisbury seeking to find a daughter they had left behind 17 years earlier when they were carnival workers at the county fair.
Post’s stories ultimately identified the girl and led to the privacy suit, which went all the way to the N.C. Supreme Court. The court declined to accept the tort known as “publication of truthful, embarrassing private fact” as part of the legal fabric of the state. Journalism schools study the law today.
Post is thought to have won more awards from the N.C. Press Association than anyone else. She was a winner of the O Henry Award from the Associated Press several times and was inducted into the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame.
In 1990 Post received the prestigious Ernie Pyle Award for human-interest writing.
Judges for the Ernie Pyle Award said, “Rose Post is a splendid writer whose stories ignite deep feelings and understanding for the so-called little people who share our planet. Through Rose Post’s perceptive writing, we share their joys, fears, hopes and victories.”
She always found the attention embarrassing and considered any awards she won as flukes.
Post once said, “Working for the newspaper is like having the keys to everyone’s house. People are just so kind, it’s just incredible how many people you get to meet, know and hug.”
It was an amazing aspect of her life that no matter how much time she devoted to the newspaper, Post would have preferred being with her family. She and her late husband, Eddie, raised five high-achieving children and became matriarch and patriarch to all the branches of the family.
She confided once that she never viewed the job as her priority.
“I act like this is the No. 1 place,” she said in 1996, “but it isn’t.”
Rose Hannah Zimmerman, born in Morganton, moved with her family to Marion, Va., when she was 4. Her father, Sam, was a merchant and Jewish immigrant from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His homeland later became Poland. Her mother left Latvia as a young girl during revolutionary times
The Zimmermans came to Salisbury in 1939 when Rose was 12 and lived above the family’s store, Zimmerman’s, on North Main Street.
Post said she knew she wanted to be a writer by the time she was in fourth grade. She was writing her own version of Nancy Drew mysteries by the time she was a sixth-grader. Her homeroom teacher, Helen Jenkins, required her students to write something every week and also proved to be an early mentor for her.
Post graduated from Salisbury’s Boyden High School and Woman’s College in Greensboro. She married Eddie Post, lived for a brief time in New York but returned to Salisbury to work at her family’s store before joining the Salisbury Evening Post on June 16, 1951, when she was a young mother of two.
Her starting salary was $35 a week in an all-male newsroom, save for the women in the society department.
Over the years, she covered schools and human services agencies, wrote a popular Sunday column called “The Kibitzer” and settled into columns and feature writing full-time in the 1980s.
Eddie Post, her mother and housekeepers made it possible for Rose to spend as much time as she did at the newspaper. Eddie often was the sounding board for many of her stories, while sharing in the child care, cooking and support of her career.
She and Eddie attended 25 consecutive years of PTA meetings and for 17 years in a row had at least one child in college.
Her children always said Rose was a mother first and looked on her newspaper work as a way to enrich all of their lives.
Her grandchildren called her “Mac,” a nickname Eddie had given her. Later it became “Bubie Mac.” (The Jewish word for grandmother is “Bubbe.”)
“I remember her telling the story of why she always wears the Star of David,” Post People editor Katie Scarvey wrote earlier. “When an anti-Semitic remark was made by a prominent citizen in her presence, Rose did not become angry. That’s not her style. Instead she chooses to quietly let people know about her religion by displaying the necklace so there will be no need for bitter words.
“Angry words are divisive. Our Rose is a uniter.”
Post and friend Bill Stanback, another former mayor, were members of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Former Mayor Paul Bernhardt, a close friend, once called Rose Post the voice of the people and said her writing often was “about getting the community to do things.”
Current Mayor Susan Kluttz said Post had a talent for connecting people in need with those who could help them.
When she worked as an executive assistant for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Kluttz knew how to funnel calls away from her boss, then Superintendent Don Martin. But she learned quickly not to try and divert Post.
“You weren’t going to stop her,” Kluttz said in 2007.
Post once made sure that a Congressman-Elect Bill Hefner arranged for an airplane to transport a needy soldier to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington.
Shirley Hooper, a reader, said, “Her love of people came through loud and clear.”
Barringer recalled Post’s learning of an Amish family who had moved to Iredell County. Because the family didn’t have a telephone, she and Barringer meandered through the countryside until finding the farm, where Post explained that she wanted to do a story about family.
“They politely said no and started to shut the door,” Barringer recalled. “Rose stuck her foot in the door so it couldn’t close and walked in. The people were too polite to throw us out and, in about an hour, Rose had her story and some new friends.”
“It seemed like everywhere we went,” Barringer added once, “Rose knew somebody.”
She and Barringer once rode the length of U.S. 70 in North Carolina — from the mountains to the coast, and recorded stories along the way. They also shared a seven-day trip to the Republican National Convention in San Diego in 1996, when U.S. Sen. Bob Dole became the GOP nominee for president.
Post was the hands-down authority on Dole’s wife, Elizabeth, a Salisbury native.
Former Salisbury Mayor Margaret Kluttz considered her a storyteller, who told the important stories.
“It’s been said the greatest gift you can give someone is the purity of your attention … the purity of her attention is exactly what Rose has given our community,” Scarvey said. “How many people have you met — without ulterior motives — who tuned into you so intently, as Rose did, that you felt you were the only person in the world?”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.