There are a lot of broken hearts out there today; if only Robert Gerald Rose was still around with his repair kit — some duct tape, a little super glue, a dab of petroleum jelly, and maybe a few odds and ends from the garage. He could probably help put us all back together again.
The second of seven boys to Ruth and Ora Rose, Robert was born on February 1, 1937 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The downtown Kalamazoo area served as a big playground while he grew up, and he would fondly recall activities like holding onto car bumpers to slide on the ice during the winter. The Rose family made the most out of their working class 1940s home life. With seven boys, there wasn’t often extra money for extravagances. Bob was quick to tell stories like needing to use socks as mittens. Regardless, the Rose brothers had tight relationships throughout their lives, living more like best friends than brothers.
His family later moved to Reading, Michigan. While in school there, a classmate introduced Robert to her sister, Jeanne. In 1952, the two of them went on double dates with Jeanne’s sister, Nora Lee. He was a proud member of the Future Farmers of America, and at the age of 16 Robert left home to work on another family’s farm in exchange for room and board.
Upon graduation from Elkhart High School, Robert enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and served aboard the U.S.S. Shangri-La. His service took him from Whidbey Island, WA to Japan, and many points in between — as the map in his basement would illustrate. He served on the aircraft carrier as a navigator, gunner, and bombardier. One training exercise resulted in him joining the “Caterpillar Club,” a club whose membership is made up of people who have used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft.
In December, 1958 he married his high school sweetheart, Jeanne. She herself was one of seven daughters, and those sisters welcomed Robert into the family such that each of them maintained great friendships with him throughout their lives. After Bob was discharged from the Navy in 1959, he and Jeanne (along with Jeanne's sister Shirley, who had flown out to Washington) embarked upon a cross-country trip that took them from Seattle down to Los Angeles, and then back to Michigan along Route 66.
Robert then attended Western Michigan University, where he studied Education for the Industrial Trades; he worked his way through college by manufacturing fishing reels at Shakespeare Company in Kalamazoo. Jeanne worked in the billing department at Sears.
Upon graduation, Robert and Jeanne moved from Kalamazoo to Marion, IN where he would teach industrial arts at the newly opened Marion High School. There, Bob and Jeanne met several other married couples that worked at the high school and formed lifelong friendships in a group that called themselves the “UnGroup.” This group started families, raised their children together, vacationed, and had more than their share of laughs and good times. The UnGroup became the third branch of Bob Rose’s family.
Bob started postgraduate studies at Ball State University while in Indiana, but he must have seen the error of his ways, for after a few years in Indiana, with the intention of being closer to their families, Jeanne and Bob returned to Michigan where he completed his master’s degree in Education at Western Michigan University.
He took a job at the State Technical Institute teaching TV and office machine repair and electronics for the State of Michigan. In addition to that, Bob also taught adult education classes at Plainwell High School, as well as Electricity and Electronics and Computer Engineering courses at Kalamazoo Valley and Kellogg Community Colleges.
Bob eventually retired from STI at the age of 55, but during his tenure, he served as a union leader at STI, and often participated at state-level negotiations. He formed close bonds with the men that he worked with here too, continuing to meet them for breakfast up until very recently.
Jeanne and Bob lived in a house that he designed on “Rose Hill” in the Plainwell, Michigan area. It was a piece of property that he liked. Jeanne wanted to be able to see the lights of Plainwell. Bob shared rides to STI with co-worker Gene Krohn. The two of them stopped one day to ask the land owner, Bob Sours, about the property. Gene and Bob ended up buying property on either side of Sours’ house. From 1972 until 2021, he enjoyed watching the wildlife and his flower gardens grow while taking in the great view from the top of Rose Hill. It was here that he popped wheelies with his dune buggy in the neighborhood gravel pit, and it was here that the couple raised their three children: Scott, Penny, and Stephanie.
The Rose family didn’t entertain in the traditional way by having dinner parties. Instead, Bob and Jeanne hosted dozens of bonfires on Rose Hill with cousins and friends, and, of course, with the UnGroup. There was also no shortage of coffee, cards, and many laughs around the kitchen table with neighbors like the Millers and the Krohns.
He was a very present father, attending (and genuinely enjoying) all his kids’ school activities. He enjoyed many summers as a softball coach, and would make learning opportunities out of any situation that required a solution. He tried to pass the wisdom that he had obtained in life along to his children in his own do-it-yourself way.
After the kids left the nest, Bob signed himself and Jeanne up for square dancing to give them something to do. Dancing would become a favorite pastime of the couple. Bob eventually became the president of their square dancing club, and they would “wow” everyone with matching outfits made by Jeanne. Over time, they branched out to learn swing, line, and ballroom dancing.
After Jeanne passed away in 2001, Bob continued to be a part of the local dancing community, and it served him well for both exercise and social interaction. There was no shortage of ladies thrilled to have him as a dance partner, but for the last 3 years his favorite partner (and girlfriend) was Shirley Summit, who lived and danced with him multiple nights a week. In more recent times, when he was too sick to leave home, they would still find time to dance in the living room!
Through dancing, Bob Rose discovered a love for bluegrass and country music. Along with finding good places to dance, he also attended many music “jams.” For a while there he was even teaching himself to play guitar and piano.
Bob was a regular at local diners where the staff always knew him by name and what he was having before he ordered - first at Pine Lake Diner for breaks and lunch during work, where he would always eat his pie first. He then became a regular at the Cooper Cafe where he loved to watch the Lonesome Moonlight Trio play the music he loved while having coffee and breakfast with his friends or family. Otsego’s Our Table Restaurant even asked to hang his artwork after hosting his weekly retirement group over the years.
Bob never let a little thing like a long car ride get in his way when he wanted to go somewhere. His driving adventures took him to the East coast several times to visit his kids. What’s wrong with a quick drive to the Ozarks to see the rhododendrons, or an impromptu trip to Alabama? Bob and Jeanne squeezed in a weekend trip to the Smoky Mountains just to enjoy the majesty of it all. He drove to Vermont and Florida for visits with friends and family, all the way out west with his brother and nephew. It was nothing for him to spend a day driving just to enjoy the sun.
Bob Rose’s grandchildren were able to enjoy lots of drives with grandpa, too. He would take them on road trips to Reading, MI, and often to Shipshewana for candy and circus peanuts. The grandkids will have fond memories of anise candies — good for a cough. Starlight mints — to take care of an upset stomach. Lots of stops at McDonald’s on those road trips. Hot fudge sundaes ANY day!
Grandpa’s house was a great place for the grandkids, too. Inside, there was often a puzzle to be had. Maybe some Lucky Charms cereal. He taught them how to play dominos, and let them watch the Little Rascals while he’d maybe sneak in a nap. Grandpa might have stayed awake while the kids napped during Lawrence Welk, but everyone loved Bob Ross and it helped showcase artistry to the grand kids.
He made a rope swing for them at the top of the hill, and showed them the sandpit up there, too. And, of course, everyone enjoyed sliding down the hill when the snows came. There were botany lessons where the kids were taught to identify poison ivy. If there was work to be done, that meant you had to wear gloves. The grandkids were taught how to use the riding lawn mower, and they learned how to mow his yard “right.” That meant mowing around the daisies on the hill. How difficult that was may have depended on whether the tires on the trailer were flat or not… but that’s another story.
In true Rose fashion, Bob was quick to tell anyone how to do things the “right way,” especially when it came to the best way to get where you were going, how to back up correctly in his driveway. He was also a very generous and giving man, and he spent many an hour sitting with sick friends or family, and often found a way to help others out, or put them in a better spot. He would drop everything to get his kids out of a jam, including doing child care for his grandsons Mik and Karlis, or babysitting for grandchildren Eliot and Amelia on a regular basis.
Bob Rose had a lifelong commitment to education, and he instilled in his children and grandchildren the important role that education plays in our lives. His family is especially proud of the perseverance he displayed in order to overcome the obstacles in his life, to finish high school, and then go on to complete bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
His family will certainly cherish their memories of Bob Rose, but they are also fortunate to enjoy the artistry and craftsmanship that he put into things like personalized desks and toddler chairs he made for his grandchildren. Other people have received wooden carvings, sculptures, model houses or buildings, furniture and cabinetry. His drawings earned many blue ribbons from the Allegan County Fair.
Bob Rose died with his family by his side in his home on Rose Hill on November 30, 2021 after a well-fought battle with COPD.
Robert is survived by his children and their spouses: Scott (Deann) Rose, Penny Rose (Jason Hall), and Stephanie Rose (Pete Kengis); his grandchildren, David James (DJ) Findora, Mik Kengis, Eliot Hall, Karlis Kengis, and Amelia Hall; his Significant Other, Shirley Summit; brother Tom Rose; sisters-in-law Pat Rose, Cindy Rose, Sue Rose, and Nancy Hamilton; brothers-in-law Jack Hipchen and Charles Dittman; and UnGroup friends Jim and Betty Fletcher, Mary Faust, Jim and Diane Stanley, Sandy Flack, and Phyllis Masing, along with many nieces, nephews, and a second generation of UnGroup kids.
Bob was preceded in death by his wife, Jeanne Rose; parents Ruth and Ora Rose; brothers Jack, Gordon, Harold, Terry, and Jimmy; sisters-in-law Darlene Rose, Linda Rose, Rachael Lamb, Mary Hipchen, Shirley Dittman, and Nora Lee Fowler; brothers-in-law Jerry Lamb and Bill Hamilton; and UnGroup friends Jerry Flack, Jim Masing, Charlie Faust, Tom and Carol Weesner.
Memorial Arrangements for Bob Rose:
3 p.m. on Saturday, December 4, at the American Legion in Schoolcraft
425 East Clay St
Schoolcraft, MI 49087
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to Wings of Hope Hospice or Comstock Public Schools Woodshop Supply Fund (for woodshop donations please make checks out to Comstock Public Schools with a memo of Rose Woodshop Supply Fund, or contact the family for Venmo details.)
The forecast looks like it could be a little chilly, so Bob Rose would probably want us to remind you to be careful out there, and be sure to watch the ice on the overpasses.
While visiting Robert's tribute page please take a moment to light a candle or share a memory with the family. The Rose family is being assisted by Avink Funeral Home and Cremation Society, 5975 Lovers Ln., Portage, MI 49002. (269)344-5600.