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Rose Augusta (Gaus) Conrad
B. June 12, 1927; D. January 9, 2023. Age: 95+
Services: A singalong memorial service will be held in Rose’s memory at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 9, 2023 in the auditorium at Wesley Glen Retirement Community, 5155 N. High St., Columbus, OH. The service is for nearby family, friends and the Wesley Glen community that supported Rose in her last 12 years of life. Rose and her late husband, Wallace V. Conrad moved to Columbus in 2002 after living in Chicago since birth, so she was a transplant. Rose helped run WG’s singalong evenings for years. She also took watercolor classes, was in the drama club and any semblance of choir she could find.
A family memorial service will be held in Chicago, IL in July, 2023, and ashes from Rose and Wally will be laid to rest at Memorial Park in Skokie, Illinois. Over a hundred years ago, Rose’s father, Paul F. Gaus, and Roeschlein relatives purchased several gravesites in the suburban cemetery. Rose and Wally’s internment will use up the last spot, closing a circle of Chicago generations.
Rose loved to look at, walk in and think about gardens, woodlands and all things wild, which was pretty rare for a city girl. She loved even more the hard, physical work of prairie restoration and cutting down invasive species to allow local natives to thrive in their most pristine state. (“Die, garlic mustard, die!”) She and Wally often walked in Schiller Woods near their Roscoe St. home in northwest Chicago, always taking along gloves and bags to pick up the trash they found along the paths. No one asked them to; it was their instinct to do so.
So please, send no cut flowers or forced grown potted flowers and plants in her memory. Instead, go join your local Wild Ones or eco-system preservation group or learn how to support the wildlife in your own garden with native plants. The birds and pollinators you attract to your home will be Rose singing to you and working hard around you once again.
Rose worked several public parcels as steward, invasive squad, trash squad and welcome lady. In Chicago, her hand was felt at Schiller Woods, North Branch Prairie, North Park Village, Buffalo Grove Prairie, and she enjoyed being a Gypsy, a group which toured projects throughout the three state region. In Columbus, she focussed on Whetstone Prairie, Glen Echo ravines and Wesley Glen ravines and gardens - both nurturing and being nurtured by her piece of wild.
Rose was the second of four children of Irma F. (Roeschlein) Gaus and Paul F. Gaus, the latter born in Europe and transplanted to Chicago where he ran his eponymous construction company for decades. One of the buildings Paul constructed was the Roscoe St. home, where Rose lived out her childhood and teen years and later, raised her own four children, Forrest P. (Woody), Ciel L. (Shelby), Amy S. and Willa J. She and her children all went to Steinmetz H.S., and Rose also spent a few years at Wilbur Wright Community College down the street.
Wally and Rose met in the Roosevelt University choir. Music and a love of dance and dancing was one of the many threads that wove them together. They took their young family to free concerts at Grant Park, walks along Navy Pier for fish sandwiches at Rocky’s, summertime concerts at Ravinia, frequent trips to the Art Institute, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Chicago Historical Society. They eventually became subscribers to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a variety of small theater companies around the north side. As Wally was a trained singer, opera was a particular favorite. They both loved the arts and artists.
Rose also was scout leader to her daughters’ various Girl Scout troops at Watson Park Congregational Church around the corner. She did not stint on her time, creating full theatrical productions (“like ‘Peter Pan’”) with homemade costumes for the girls and organizing camping trips and nature walks.
In her 40s, Rose went to work as a full time mail carrier in the 60634 and 60635 zip code of Chicago (Dunning Station). It was a huge transition. She had to learn to drive for the first time, and she lost 40 pounds in one year from all the walking. She loved it and did the job for 20 years. It suited her physically active nature; Rose was never one to sit back and watch others do. Her way of loving was by doing. In her last years, when Alzheimer’s had taken much of her mind and ability, she often said “I wish I could help,” and was visibly distressed when she thought she couldn’t.
This was the secret of Rose A. Conrad, though; the way she helped, the way she loved best, was by simply being who she was. Modest to excess, cantankerous to excess, she never understood that just being herself was enough. She was everyone’s favorite aunt because of her tolerance, curiosity and supportive nature, always looking for the best motives in the dimmest of situations. She was a closeted free spirit raising children when the women’s rights movement was just beginning. She had hippie-like, anti-authority instincts i.e., discreet topless sunbathing, no makeup or high heels, and speaking privately against mindless authority. Later, she railed more publicly in Columbus at peace rallies and the Doo Dah parade.
Raised Lutheran (Missouri Synod), kind of, Rose did not strongly affiliate with organized religion. Wally was a longtime attender of the Oak Park Friends Meeting, and she often went along and participated. When her children grew up and experimented with buddhism, vegetarianism, catholicism, new ageism and atheism, she participated with curiosity and non judgment. They were allowed to become who they were and to serve their god (or God) as they found him (her/it).
Another revelation of Rose’s 40s was joining the Shabbona Sharks, the Masters Swim Club at her local free Chicago public park. She swam often and went to swim meets. She made friends. As usual, she stepped up and produced the club’s newsletter. Wally liked to swim, too, but Rose liked the sense of community.
In parenting style, Rose was a fierce mama bear and socially progressive. When Chicago schools started busing African American children to the local schools, she wrote letters adamantly supporting the move when neighbors frothed against it. She and Wally did not have much in physical assets, but what they had they gave freely and without thoughts of repayment from their children and, when they could, their grandchildren. They put their children through college and truly loved celebrating milestones like graduations and professional achievements. They enjoyed weddings, births and grandchildren more.
Rose and Wally had a long, happy retirement, living modestly but well supported by the last great round of retirement and healthcare benefits of the U.S. Post Office. They relocated to Columbus in their ‘70s near their daughter Shelby. They felt it was a more livable urban environment, reminiscent of Chicago half a century earlier. They traveled as much as they wished (not much, but always to see children and grandchildren for extended stays), were pretty healthy, and were content with modest pleasures like daily walks, trips to museums, gardens and musical concerts - or just the simple pleasure of a cup of coffee and conversation at their favorite McDonald’s. Rose often said she had had a pretty great life, no major tragedies, illnesses, accidents, issues, poverty or family distress. Her children know that her simple attitude of doing the best with what you have, not overstating your own importance, and not expecting celebrity even within your own family circle, were the greatest gifts she could have endowed.
Rose is survived by her four children: Woody (Debby) Conrad, Shelby Conrad, Amy Barron, and Willa Conrad (Ed) Burleigh. She is survived by her seven grandchildren: Adam P. (Gina) Conrad; Teresa J. (James) Griffin; Veronica T. Barron; Mark E. (James) Barron/Taylor; Sadie R. Burleigh; William S. Burleigh. She is survived by her three great-children: Ingrid and Edith Griffin and Alex Conrad. She was predeceased by her husband of 62 years, Wally, and her son-in-law Anthony Ruzas.
The family would particularly like to thank the many caring and thoughtful staff at Wesley Glen who worked smoothly with Rose’s children and wider family as she sank slowly to her last breath. In-person or video visits, both tender and raucous, from Rose’s grandchildren, great grandchildren and nieces made her eyes light up, even when her words failed her.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace