Conversations with Sister Rose are about three things: family, faith and hard work. Growing up on a farm in Kansas, she attended a church with a mission-minded background that she embraced and maintained throughout her life.
She remembers her mother, a strong German woman with a managing nature, caring well for Rose and her five siblings. “Everybody had something to do,” Sister Rose recalls. “We worked together. We learned.” She completed eighth grade and engaged in domestic work before continuing her education and beginning deaconess training in 1951. Five years later, Sister Rose earned her Bachelor of Science degree with a major in occupational therapy from Milwaukee Downer College, serving in leadership roles in her field before being elected Directing Sister of the Lutheran Deaconess Motherhouse in Milwaukee in 1971.
Leading the deaconesses during a period in time that saw fewer young women answering the call to a full-time commitment, Sister Rose knew decisions needed to be made for the lifelong care and housing of the sisters. Together with Lutheran Hospital, the Deaconesses and Luther Manor, an agreement was reached to move the Sisters from their home located on the Lutheran Hospital campus to Luther Manor, keeping them together.
She moved with them, taking an apartment as a young and active woman. Today, at 99, Sister Rose lives independently in the apartment she’s called home for 40 years…the sole surviving deaconess of the American Lutheran Church.
In retirement, Sister Rose’s contributions to Luther Manor have been many, but perhaps the most impactful has been her founding of the Den of Antiquity. Since opening its doors in 1985, the resale shop has contributed more than $500,000 to Luther Manor Foundation. Much like the woman who inspired it, the Den is mission-minded and going strong, supported by a community of volunteers joined together by hard work and sustained by faith.
She has enjoyed antiques, world travel and together with a dear friend, Jean, made paraments for several churches and organizations in the Milwaukee area. The last one they completed together features the four seasons and is hanging in Luther Manor’s Welcome Center. “She was the artist,” Sister Rose remembers. “I was the seamstress.”
Sister Rose reflects on a life blessed with years and experiences, but not one without hardship, including the death of her sister while a Japanese prisoner in New Guinea during World War II. Her photo holds a prominent place in Sister Rose’s apartment. Growing up, they were roommates, and one senses that the loss is still felt. When asked from where she draws her strength, the answer comes quickly: “Faith in the Lord.”
Sister Rose – who she is and all that she has done – is captured in her consecration verse. From Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we all ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”