Rosemarie Kupencow – “Rosie,” as I always affectionately called her – was the very first friend I made when I started working here at South Bay’s Neighbor Newspapers, just about 11 years ago. The resident proofreader, she introduced herself to me right away, and made sure I felt welcome in this new, unfamiliar setting, showing me the ins and outs of the newspaper she had come to call home for close to a decade at that point.

In addition to being hired as an editorial assistant, I was brought on to help Rose, my new friend, with some of the weekly proofreading duties. Armed with her magnifying glass and a stash of green pens – “only green,” she would say, “NEVER make corrections with anything else” – she quickly took me under her wing, and we became close companions, often taking breaks together outside in whatever patches of sun we could find, and occasionally heading out for lunch outings at Nathan’s, one of our favorite destinations. She would always order the fish and chips from Arthur Treacher’s, then laugh hysterically as I looked on in horror, marveling at why someone would go to Nathan’s for anything other than a hotdog.  

After a short time, we realized that not only had I attended high school with her daughter, Jennifer, but we now lived just a few short blocks away from each other, and we began to carpool frequently to and from work. On one memorable return trip, during a rather heavy rainstorm, I infamously “drowned” my car during an ill-fated attempt to navigate down her flooded street, despite her repeated warnings that it probably wasn’t going to end well.

She never did let me live that one down, deservedly so.

But that was Rose, always dispensing advice – some solicited, some not so much – and serving as the unofficial “work mother” to many of the younger employees. In that capacity, a co-worker and I took her along as a “chaperone” of sorts on my very first trip to Adventureland not so many years ago. As we made our way from one ride to another, taking care not to miss any, the air was filled with the sounds of screaming – not ours, but of our beloved Rosie, yelling, “Get me OFF this thing!!!” and “Why did I let you two talk me into this???” I don’t think I have ever laughed so hysterically in my life.

Needless to say, that was our first and last trip to any amusement park. But the memories, well, those last a lifetime. (As does the framed photo of the three of us plummeting over “Adventure Falls” at the moment of impact, a priceless reminder of all the fun that was had that day.)

Just last week, Rose lost her battle with cancer, leaving a giant void here at South Bay – and in my heart. Her selfless determination to continue on over the past year was a perfect example of the type of person she was, always putting others first while forging ahead. What an incredible person, one that is dearly missed by so many.

I’ll miss her sitting in the “friend” chair on the other side of my desk, coming to chat about life and work and family and friends and everything in between. I’ll miss our good-natured teasing back and forth, her imitations of my ballet positions, her self-deprecating analysis of her “fashion” sense – “don’t have a hair clip, use a paper clip!” – our phone conversations – in spite of her staunch refusal to ever get a cell phone, and her insistence on keeping important phone numbers on a crumbled piece of paper in her pocketbook…just seeing her smiling face every day at the office.

But mostly, I’ll miss my special friend.

This past December, in celebration of her birthday, Rose and I went out to dinner. She may not have been feeling like her old self, but it was truly like old times. For over three hours, we sat and talked, just the two of us – reminiscing about the highlights and lowlights of our decade working together, chatting about the latest happenings in our lives… and we laughed, hysterically, about many of the same stories recounted here – and countless others, some not suitable for publication in a family newspaper. We could have continued talking for three more hours, easily; it seemed that neither of us wanted that night, that moment, to end. I will always treasure it.

How lucky I was to have her in my life – there to guide the way as I began this new chapter all those years ago… and there to see me through the journey every step of the way since.

Rose, you will never be forgotten – not by me, and not by those who had the wonderful pleasure of knowing you, of loving you, of having you touch their lives. May you be at peace now.


{Published: May 4th, 2016}


Jamie Lynn RyanComment