In Memory: Russell David Rosene – “I grow toward the light”
Russ was a Friend. Always cheerful and full of stories from his life of travel and service, Russ was a great addition to our small Quaker meetings whenever he and his lovely wife Darlene visited Maui. He liked everyone. When my son John was young, he had a pet rat, Rascal; Russ took an interest in John – and Rascal!
Recently, we celebrated Russ with a memorial service at Kameole III Beach Park in Kihei, Maui.
“Russell D. Rosene died peacefully in his sleep early on August 23, 2014, at the age of 92. He was born in Massachusetts, of Swedish ancestry, moved to Flint, Michigan and later to Los Angeles, where he graduated from Hollywood High School and got his first job at Walt Disney studios [how cool is that?].
A radio officer in the Merchant Marine, Russ served in both Pacific and Atlantic theatres of World War II. He was known for his stories and his sharp memories of the events of those years. At his death, Russ was a member of the Carl W. Minor chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans.
Russ worked internationally with the United Nations, the Peace Corps, the American Friends Service Committee, and other organizations, which sent him to many countries throughout the world, especially to Latin America, where he became fluent in Spanish.
He returned to the sea for his last years of employment, working with the Chevron oil company tanker fleet where he ended a career as radio officer that spanned fifty years.
Russ was very fond of Avila Beach [in San Luis Obispo County, California] having moved there with his first wife, Nita, and young family in the early 1950s. Though he left many times to take up international positions, he kept returning to the San Luis Obispo area, living in Oceano and most recently in Shell Beach. He was frequently seen with his camera, taking shots of the beautiful sights of the beaches, the rolling hills, trees, wildflowers, and sunsets. ‘I am phototropic,’ he would say, ‘I grow toward the light.’
A gregarious personality, Russ was someone who truly loved life. He enjoyed outdoor adventures, meeting new people, and learning about their lives. Infused with Quaker principles as a volunteer in the Gaza Strip in 1949, he was also a humanitarian with an active interest in the plight of others.
Married three times, he is survived by his wife, Darlene Tunney; his first wife, Nita Rosene; their son, Chris (Sheila) and their daughter, Sandra. He leaves behind three grandchildren – Maya, Josh, and Ryan; and three great-granddaughters – Hilayah, Natalia, and Georgia. He is also survived by second wife, Wilda Rosene; step-children, Lisa Tunney Irwin (Peter) and Tyler Tunney (Ruth); step-grandsons – Joseph, Captain Jack, and Campbell.
Those who knew Russ knew he always had a cup of coffee, whether on tour somewhere in his red Mustang convertible, or back home with Darlene where there is a plaque that reads, ‘This home is full of love, laughter and lots of coffee!’
His final days were spent at Casa Rosa Elder Care, where he received the finest of tender loving care. He retained a strong appetite and love of food, always consuming everything on his plate.
Lisa spoke for the whole family to wish him ‘sunny skies and apple pies’” – written by Darlene Tunney and Chris Rosene.
For those of us in a world without Russ in a physical form, Darlene shared an excerpt from Mary Oliver’s poem,
“In Blackwater Woods” –
“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
to let it go.”
We shared a great feast – tasty and healthy (with not a single bag of potato chips)!
On the table in the foreground are three big apple pies. Russ would have loved to eat a slice too.
Over his lifetime, Russ saw what war and displacement do to people. He leaves us with these words:
Poem on Peace – by Russ Rosene
Yes, all war is hell
It brings us no end
Of wrongs still to tell
And lives still to mend
And wounds still to heal
That won’t ever cease
To urge us to deal
And form a new peace
And restore what’s lost
By the whole human race
In confronting the cost
And in smoothing each face
Of still-angered men
Or still-grieving wives
Who still ask us when
Their much-shattered lives
Can rebuild new hope
In truth and not lies
As we learn to cope
As each of us tries
To restore good will
In trust and in song
And peace to fulfill
“Can’t we just get along?”
A meaningful way to remember Russ is to think of his words whenever we want to lash out, “Can’t we just get along?”
RIP: Russell David Rosene – b. April 13, 1922, d. August 23, 2014
I am blessed to have known Russ.
P.S. The radio room on the American Victory Ship/Mariners Memorial Museum will be named the “Russ Rosene Radio Room.” Stationed in Tampa, Florida, this ship is one of four still operating; visitors can get a feel of World War II experiences. To learn more, go to http://www.americanvictory.org