The sweetness people saw in Ruthie Rosen was very real. It was honest; it was genuine. My mother was truly young at heart; she had that beautiful smile and that ready laugh for her entire life. Ruthie was also, for lack of a better word, a pure artist.
Ruth Rosen was born in 1933 in Los Angeles to Simon Israel and Gertrude Ellenberg. Mom was the youngest of three sisters, something of an unexpected surprise; she was born nine years after her next older sister, Francie.
As a child, my mother took skating and ballet classes, as well as art and violin lessons. She also loved the movies - a love she would later bequeath to me and my two brothers, Ian and David.
Ruth described her college years at UCLA as big and a bit overwhelming. She did pursue her dance and music studies, became an avid folk dancer and artist, drawing and painting landscapes, which she continued to do for the rest of her life.
Shortly after she graduated, she met Larry Rosen, who was home in L.A. after finishing up his medical studies at Northwestern. My mom had recently graduated from UCLA and my dad was about to enter the navy and set out to sea as a flight surgeon. They dated and became increasingly close that summer.
One day, as they were driving up the California coast together, my mom said she wanted my dad to meet her cousin Phil and his wife Jackie. In response, he gave her a silver mezuzah on a chain and said, “I will if you marry me.” My mom responded with the now immortal words, “You’re kidding.”
After they were engaged, my dad promptly set out to sea with the navy and my mom worked as a public school teacher, teaching physical education and art to junior high students.
Even if they were so different in many ways, my parents’ marriage truly modeled how two people could learn to grow together. More than anything, Ruth and Larry showed us what a committed relationship could look like: how to grow together, and how to lovingly share the passions in your life with one another along the way, which they did for 63 years of marriage.
Ruth eventually transitioned from classical music to traditional folk music. She joined her niece Dodi and traveled with the Upstairs String Band. She also played klezmer music with her local temple band.
She also was a passionate political activist for most of her adult life. She advocated for gun control for many years. Like the Impressionist artists she idolized, Ruthie painted countless oil and watercolor paintings of her garden. Her gardening, her art, and her music were singular passions for her.
So many people are telling me that they have her paintings hanging in their homes, and how lucky that makes them feel. That means in a very real way, Ruth Rosen’s beauty is all around us. It literally lives on all over the country.
By Brant Rosen