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In 1957, Beatrice “Bea “Rose moved to Alaska after Alaska’s Territorial Congressional Delegate Bob Bartlett encouraged her and her husband, Nissel “Mike” Rose, to go to the territory to help work for statehood and make a home in this land of opportunity.
After a long drive to Alaska from Washington, D.C., they arrived in Anchorage with $7 to spare. Fortunately, they were able to get a family loan and soon bought a home in Spenard. Bea and Mike quickly threw themselves into working for statehood and contributing their time to causes they felt would strengthen a new, young state. Due to the contributions of the Roses and many other Alaskans, Alaska was granted U.S. statehood on January 3, 1959. Although she expected to live in Alaska for only two years, Rose remained in Alaska for the rest of her life.
In 1958, Rose, along with her husband and a small group of families, helped establish Anchorage’s first Jewish synagogue, Congregation Beth Sholom. Rose was elected as the Congregation’s first Secretary of the Board. The goal of this new synagogue was to provide a Jewish center where individuals could practice their religion together, offer Jewish education to children and express their Jewish identity in a remote location where Jews were an almost invisible minority.
Through the years, Rose held several board positions; served on committees; helped create and taught at the Temple’s Sunday school; fundraised for a new, permanent building; mentored young women in the Jewish faith; and hosted events in her home. She also served on the board for the local chapter of Hadassah, a Jewish women’s organization.
Almost 50 years after Rose helped establish the synagogue, she participated in an important ceremony that was not available to her as a girl: the coming-of-age ritual that enables a young person at the age of 12 or 13 to read out of the Torah, offer a teaching, and be recognized as a responsible adult member of the community. The name of the ceremony is Bar Mitzvah for boys and Bat Mitzvah for girls. At age 76, Rose read a passage from the Torah and gave a short speech with 17 other adult women, all of whom had never had the opportunity to become a Bat Mitzvah. Rose engaged fully in this ritual, even though she was suffering from a malignant brain tumor, which made learning and remembering difficult for her. Nevertheless, she persisted, since the Bat Mitzvah represented an important act of Rose’s faith and underscored her long-held belief that women should have the same opportunities as men.
Work with children who faced learning and speech challenges
Rose dedicated her professional life, as well as her volunteer time, to assist children who faced educational challenges. Bea arrived in Alaska with her Bachelors in Speech Therapy. In 1964, Nick Begich, then the principal on Fort Richardson Army Base, hired Rose for her first full-time school district position.
During her 25 years of teaching with the Anchorage School District, Rose created and implemented speech and language therapy programs and procedures for the school district. She treated autistic, developmentally disabled and emotionally disturbed children, as well as students who needed intensive training in the English language. She also counseled parents and advised teachers on how to reinforce language training. In her first few years in Alaska, Rose also helped establish ARCA, now Hope Community Resources, to serve Alaskans with special needs, since no such services were available at the time. Rose and her husband also were foster parents to a child with disabilities, when they had three other children under the age of 4.
Rose was a long-time leader in education circles, with particular emphasis on special education. She served on the committee to initiate Special Education in Alaska, served as the NEA-Alaska Chairperson and as the first PTA president at Northern Lights School.
Rose served for many years in key positions in the Anchorage Education Association, including as a Building Representative and as one of the most active members of the Political Action Committee for Education, or PACE. After her retirement, she volunteered for AEA at teacher job fairs, where she provided snacks of pilot bread and peanut butter for applicants planning to teach in rural Alaska.
Rose was an activist in women’s issues and participated in the Alaska Women’s Political Caucus and National Organization for Women. She was particularly involved with promoting Title IX, which opened up athletic opportunities to girls in schools as well as access to graduate school. She served as the Chair of the National Education Alaska-Alaska Women’s Caucus, and volunteered for Alaska Press Women, Alaska Women’s Speak and other organizations.
Rose was a regularly contributing member of Alaska Women’s Speak, a journal devoted to the exchange of ideas, literature, art and heart talk, as well as providing a statewide update on women’s political and social issues. Rose frequently wrote articles for the quarterly magazine and served as secretary for the board.
Rose participated actively in the Alaska Democratic Party and worked on numerous campaigns, including elections for Nick Begich, Sr., Bill Egan, Ernest Gruening, and many other candidates in the following three decades after she arrived.
She used those skills to support her husband’s successful campaign for the State House in 1970. Rose worked tirelessly stuffing envelopes, helping register voters, going door-to-door and coordinating numerous fundraisers.
Mental Health Advocacy
Rose always fought for the underdog, but when her own son, Nathaniel, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1977, Rose and her husband, Mike, became activists on mental health issues at the state and national levels. She joined the board of Alaska Mental Health Association and got involved with the Alaska Alliance for the Mentally Ill, as well as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) She attended several national NAMI conferences and brought the knowledge back to Alaska. She worked to destigmatize mental illness and was instrumental in lobbying for passage of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Settlement. Rose worked on getting more housing for people with mental illness and became a long-time friend and support to a young man who had mental illness through the Compeer program.
Mentor to other women
Through her life, Rose served as s role model, mentor and champion for girls and women.
Martha Upicksoun-Feenstra, an Alaska Native journalist, published an article in honor of Rose, in 1994 entitled “Demanding teacher imparted more than skill with words.” Martha notes that she wished at age nine not to be Native, not to be tall, and not to have a speech problem. While she couldn’t do anything about the first two wishes, she did get help from speech therapist Bea Rose.
“Enter Beatrice Rose, then a school district speech therapist and later a local substitute teacher, who still lives in Anchorage. The obvious gift she gave me in small group speech therapy – to talk properly – has served me well over the years. But the greatest gift she gave me, I now see, was that she cared, and cared with an intensity that made her a gifted teacher. For a gangly Native girl who learned to love words through reading but couldn’t properly read out loud, she was a childhood lifeline.
“To speak clearly is not a skill I could have learned on my own, even through books. Twenty-seven years ago, my speech therapist expected – nay, she indirectly demanded of me with her energized aura – that I do my best. And for her, I did. If more teachers simply expected more of their Native students, they might surprise themselves with the results.
“Thank you, Beatrice Rose, for the ease with which I speak today. And for the humane way you treated a young girl.”
Diane DiSanto, former Senior Legislative Assistant at United States Senate and advocate for the mentally ill, notes: “From the first time I heard Bea Rose speak to her passing years later, I have been inspired by her activism and her spirit. I got to know Bea through the Alaska Chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. We both had family members that were mentally ill. She was so strong and taught me to fight for what is right. I love how she spoke up, really spoke up, for the underdog. I also knew Bea from the Democratic Party and her activism with questioning candidates to do the right thing. Bea Rose is a perfect example of a woman who fought for what was right and I learned from her.”
Susan Doore Levy, lifelong Alaskan and Congregation Beth Sholom member, comments: “Bea Rose welcomed my sister and me into her home as teenagers, with two other Jewish girls who didn’t have mothers. She gave us cooking lessons and taught us customs and traditions. Years later when I was lucky enough to be part of her extended family I marveled at her joie de vivre, her thirst for lifelong learning and her passion for travel. But more than anything I want to emulate her fierce love for family and friends, her sense of right and wrong and her tireless work for causes she believed in that made our world a better place.”
Marilyn Doore, lifelong Alaskan and Anchorage School District teacher, adds: “I am who I am today in part due to Bea’s influence. I saw her creating a loving home in which I was always welcome, so I try to welcome everyone and anyone into our home today. As an adult, I spoke with her about being a teacher, caring for others, and raising a family. I work hard at being a teacher so she, too, would be proud of me.”
Terrie Gottstein, community volunteer, nonprofit employee and Congregation Beth Sholom member, says: “I am fortunate that Bea Rose was among the first of a number of long-term Anchorage residents I met when I first moved to the state in the late 1970’s. As a pillar and founding member of Anchorage’s Congregation Beth Sholom, she was a model of inclusivity and the personification what it means to be welcoming, with her trademark kindness, grace, humor and an open and generous heart.”
Beth Rose, daughter, notes: “My mother was a role model, not only for me but for many friends and community members. When I consider all that she managed to accomplish, I am in awe. She worked full-time, dedicated herself to advancing the rights of women, worked regularly on political campaigns, hosted events at our home, and pursued a strong, caring Jewish life both at the synagogue and at home. She was also a life-long learner, inspiring me to read and express myself creatively, as she did in her writing. Later in life, she gave her heart and soul to work on mental health advocacy.
My mother’s involvement in the Jewish community has led me to maintain Jewish customs and values and remain an active member of Congregation Beth Sholom for the past 30 years. Her persistence, particularly when she pursued her Bat Mitzvah when she was battling her brain tumor, will always inspire and encourage me to take on challenges. I strive to live up to her example of creating and sustaining a loving, supportive network of family and friends. ”
Rose received the following awards for her accomplishments:
1988 Volunteer of the Year Award by the Alaska Mental Health Association
2005 Shining Lights Award by Congregation Beth Sholom.
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/4YK9ZJeHptk