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The Rose We Knew PDF Print E-mail
Written by Olga L. Figueroa, BT Contributor   
July 2017

Neighbors remember a woman many considered family

RMyView_1ose Dougherty’s memories were found in the dirt two months ago. More than 13 years after her death, her photo albums, moldy and damaged by humidity and rain, were found in the front yard of her white bungalow on NE 114th Street in Biscayne Park. The home sat unoccupied until a few months ago.

The albums, left behind after her death, were put aside by contractors cleaning out the house, but a bulldozer removing yard debris weeks later scattered the albums in the muddy front yard, where they were recovered by neighbors.

The photos, dating back to the 1940s, portrayed a beautiful woman sporting tailored jackets, pencil skirts, cropped pants, and stylish swimwear.

Born Rose Gerome in Akron, Ohio, Rose wanted to see the world, so she became a travel agent and did just that.

“Nice Italian girls didn’t do that in those days,” Rose once said to me. “When I told my father what I wanted to do, he called me a puttana.”

In the wet, moldy albums were pictures of Paris, Mexico, and San Diego, pictures taken aboard cruise ships, atop mountains, and on Biscayne Bay.

MyView_2

It was in Miami that Rose met and married Patrick J. Dougherty, in the early 1950s. “He was so handsome,” she’d tell me decades later. “We didn’t have too many years, but we had a lot of fun.”

The couple had two children, a son who passed away in 2007, and a daughter who lived a thousand miles away and visited her a couple of times a year.

Rose was a longtime parishioner at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. But when she’d say, “This is my church,” she wasn’t standing in front of the Miami Shores parish or sitting in the pews, but beneath the tree canopy in her backyard.

The 817-square-foot bungalow was the home she shared with her beloved Patrick, and where she raised their kids and resided until her death. The overgrown canopy was a place of joy and inner peace for her, whether she was picking wild cherries from the hedges Patrick planted decades earlier or sorting avocados from her trees.

Sometimes she’d sing opera while gardening, even in the rain. To say Rose was eccentric would be an understatement, just as it would be to say she was thoughtful and loving.

“I remember sitting around with her under the mango and avocado trees,” recalls Heather Vanheuveln, who grew up two doors down. “There would be four kids tumbling and swinging on her hammock. She’d bring us marshmallows and drinks in brass goblets. She was like a neighborhood grandma -- she’d watch us swinging from the trees in the median and just keep a watchful eye, but never yell. She let us be kids, and we let Rose be Rose.”

Vanhueveln’s sister, Elizabeth Prince, remembers Rose making her fresh-squeezed juice after she helped her pull weeds from her yard.

MyView_3

Rose loved being a hostess. If she was having someone over for lunch, she’d use fresh flowers from her freesia tree on the table or ask a neighbor for some blossoms off theirs.

Some friends saw another side of her. “She seemed lonely. I suppose she was, because her kids and grandkids were far away,” says Jean Stefanick, a substitute teacher and friend of Rose’s son. “She liked to talk to me. She’d go by the religious store at St. Rose and hang around. We’d give her prayer cards, rosaries, and crosses because she didn’t have much money.”

On a modest retirement income, Rose didn’t have a lot to spend, but what she had, she’d share.

On Halloween she’d sit in her tiny screened porch, holding a huge mixing bowl of candy and medicine bottles filled with quarters for the neighborhood kids.

“Everyone gave out candy on Halloween, but Rose gave us money,” recounts my daughter Lauren, who grew up next door.

When the U.S. Treasury issued two-dollar bills and Susan B. Anthony dollars, Rose stocked up and gave them out to neighborhood kids for Christmas.

To neighbors, she’d deliver small bowls of meat sauce, samples of the homemade blackberry jam and venison her son would send her from Washington State, and the cookies no one can forget.

“It’s just fried pizza dough,” she’d say over and over, but to those who tasted them, it was so much more.

MyView_4Prince remembers helping Rose make the unforgettable confection. She’d roll the dough, cut it into strips, shape them into snowflakes, deep-fry them and dip them in honey.

“It was so special to have been invited by her to help,” says Prince, a mother of three who creates her share of memorable desserts. “It was a substitute grandmother experience.”

It was moments like that those that made Rose special to her friends and neighbors. She liked to spread the love.

“Food is love,” she often said, and she liked to share. At her memorial service, a friend shared Rose’s meat sauce secret: fennel. The herb, Rose told her, reduced the tomatoes’ acidity.

Besides gardening and food, Rose loved the ocean. Pictures from the late 1940s show her enjoying the beach in San Diego and Miami.

MyView_5My daughter remembers going to the beach with her own grandmother, younger sister, and Rose. “She really liked going to the beach with us. She loved the beach,” says Lauren, who now lives in Austin.

Rose loved it so much, she told several people that she wanted her ashes scattered there, but her ashes remained in the house for more than a decade, said neighbor and friend Gilbert Cuebas, who occasionally checked on the property.

When the house was sold in January of this year, many neighbors rejoiced because it would finally be repaired and restored, something Rose always wanted to do but couldn’t afford.

The outcome of the renovation exceeded the neighbors’ expectations. The bungalow is now home to a family with young children who can now enjoy the yard Rose called her church.

As for Rose’s friends and neighbors, they hope she made it to the ocean one last time.

 

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