Cook: Remembering Rose, the series …
I spent time Friday reading some of Rose Post’s stories from the 1970s and 1980s.
What a writer she was.
“When a Catawba College student asked Mitch Mack of Mooresville what made him get out of the moonies, his answer was quick.
“ ‘Four policemen and a pair of handcuffs.’ ”
That’s from a seven-part series Rose wrote in 1977, “Brainwashed for God.”
A young Salisbury woman, Frances Rufty, spent seven months with the Hare Krishna group before her parents had her abducted, brought home and “de-programmed.”
The series about her experience was personal, deep and illuminating.
In the coming weeks and months, the Post plans to reprint some of the stories Rose wrote over her 56-year career with the Post, including part of the Brainwashed for God series.
People who were familiar with Rose will enjoy reading her stories again, and other people will learn what all the fuss was about when Rose died on Oct. 20 at the age of 85.
• • •
Hundreds attended Rose’s memorial service Oct. 21 in Omwake Dearborn Chapel at Catawba. Post colleagues alone filled four or five pews.
And the stories that flowed during the service reminded us all of Rose’s graceful prose, determined spirit and strong moral compass.
For example: the trip to Russia.
Susie Post Rust is the youngest of Rose and Eddie Post’s five children and had some great adventures with her parents — and her grandmother, Anna Zimmerman, or “Bubbie” — after the older kids left home.
In 1977, a doctor found a cancerous lump on Bubbie, who was nearing 88. Rose immediately focused on a long-delayed dream. After immigrating to the United States as a young girl, her mother had returned to Russia only once, and now had lost contact with her two sisters there.
Rose had been urging her mother for years to go to Russia and see her sisters one more time.
Rose asked the doctor how long Bubbie’s surgery could be delayed.
No more than two weeks, the doctor said.
So the trip to Russia — to the Soviet Union — had to happen in two weeks. But the family would need passports and visas that you can’t even get in two months sometimes — unless you’re Rose Post.
Rose flew to Washington, D.C., the next morning, a Thursday, and returned home Friday with tickets, passports and visas. Rose, Eddie, Bubbie and 14-year-old Susie flew to Russia on Saturday.
How did Rose do it? Susie didn’t go into all the details, but her mother did find herself locked inside the Russian Embassy at one point.
Rose squeezed travel documents out of slow bureaucracies by asking and asking, finding the right person and asking some more.
Because, as Susie said, no doesn’t mean no; it means what else can I try?
• • •
Son Sam told of a letter to the editor one of his middle-school students submitted for the school paper. The boy wrote about what it feels like to be a nobody, and signed it “Nobody.” The principal rejected the letter and said it should be thrown away.
“Being my mother’s son,” Sammy said, he didn’t let the matter drop. He took the letter to a higher authority — Rose.
She told him she had felt like a nobody as a child when her family moved to Salisbury. She liked her old hometown, Marion, Va., better. The turning point came when teacher Helen Jenkins took an interest in Rose’s writing and encouraged her.
Rose understood how the student felt and knew other people would, too.
So the letter that wasn’t allowed in the school paper wound up instead in the Salisbury Post.
That was his mother’s way, Sam said.
“She went around finding nobodies and she acknowledged them as being somebody,” he said. “That’s her legacy.”
• • •
As a Jew, Rose was a member of one of the smallest minorities in Salisbury, son David said. But she wore her Star of David necklace proudly.
When she wrote for the Post, she did more than report, he said; she would make the story about the best part of all of us and what we knew to be right.
So she wrote about an interracial couple who had a baby — not a common occurrence at the time, 40 years ago.
When a nurse asked the mother what race to put on the birth certificate, the mother balked and asked why that was necessary.
It’s required, the nurse insisted. If the mother didn’t fill it out, she wouldn’t be allowed to take her baby home.
Well, write down “human,” the mother said.
“We’re all that,” the nurse said.
“Exactly,” said the mother.
Exactly, we all thought as David finished his story.
That’s what appealed to people about Rose — she was so human, so approachable. And she saw the human — the somebody — in each of us.
How can you say no to someone like that?
• • •
Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.