As we gather here today, still reeling from the tragic death of Gordon Rose, we are shocked, scared and angered at the unfairness and senselessness that took him from us. We seek to make sense of this, to understand the reason why this happened. What plan could this have been a part of, what possible meaning or lesson can be gleaned from this?
Well meaning people will tell us that it is all part of God’s plan, or that this was just Gordon’s time to go, that he is in a better place. But we cry out that while God certainly knows his plan, we do not. Gordon may indeed be in a better place now, but we want his to be here with us.
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, and as difficult and painful as it is, we must accept that Gordon is dead. As a family, as friends, as a community, we express our sadness, we acknowledge our loss, acknowledge the great importance of Gordon’s life, and the loss to us all that his passing brings.
No, there are no easy answers, but there are other questions, very important questions that can be answered by looking at Gordon’s life. And though we must face bravely the fact of Gordon’s death, we owe it to Gordon and to ourselves to look at the bigger picture of Gordon’s life.
Gordon’s journey to Harrisburg on Sunday has changed our lives forever, but it was only one of an incredible multitude of journeys that Gordon took in his life. It is this multitude of wonderful journeys that will have the most lasting effect on us. What is it that takes a man from humble origins literally around the world, to an incredible number of very interesting places to learn, to find love, to build a wonderful family, to achieve professional, educational, financial, and so much more real life success, to make and maintain many many friendships, to experience a vast array of wonderful sights and sounds…
What is it that takes a man through all of this, and brings him back home to Trenton, just a mile or two from where he was born? This is a question that we can answer. This is a question whose answer is the spirit of Gordon Rose, and this is his legacy for us.
What does it say about Gordon that he made his way around the world, and then back to Trenton? Gordon was, from the beginning to the end, a very intelligent and hard working man. From childhood, through school and college he worked to finance his education. Throughout his teaching career, he was always on the look out for new opportunities, and even in retirement, he found new work. Gordon had a very active mind, a wonderful memory, a great thirst for knowledge. His opinions were always well thought out, carefully considered, but he loved to argue and hear the opinions of others. You might not change his opinion, but he was always interested in hearing yours.
He was a teacher, and very much enjoyed teaching Chemistry to high school students in New Jersey, in Japan, in Germany. He valued education, and his career in education allowed him to travel and work all over the world. Surely, Gordon was a traveler and an adventurer. He was a person who loved to learn about and experience new places and other cultures. He would carefully research each of his journeys, but then, wonderfully, he opened himself up to what he would find, taking new and unexpected, un-researched legs on his trip.
Gordon was a wonderful husband, easy going, easy to live with, easy to love. When Ann asked what place had been his favorite to visit, he said that it had been Germany, and that Hilda was the most interesting woman he had ever known. They met in Munich where they both worked, and later married in Bali. They enjoyed 33, as Hilda says, glorious years of marriage together. That’s something very special.
From this union came Ann, and the Roses were a family. Gordon had a great love for his family, especially for Ann, and they enjoyed a very special relationship, sharing many trips and many long regular conversations- both in person and by long distance telephone. Gordon would get very concerned of more than a few days went by without a conversation with Ann. Ann has inherited her father’s love for travel and political argument. She says of her father, that he never took anything for granted, that he did all the many things he wanted to do, and that she would love to life her life just as he has.
The Roses enjoyed a very democratic family, though Gordon didn’t necessarily vote a democratic ticket, each member was very much their own person, following the path they chose and coming together to share it all.
Of course it wouldn’t be right to talk about Gordon without mentioning his larger family, and his friends. Gordon kept in close contact with his sisters and with his many friends. He knew the value of both, and maintained relationships with childhood friends, colleagues from across the world, and tennis partners from down the street. And it is with Gordon’s friends and family that we are brought full circle from his beginnings in Trenton, across the world, and back again. Even though Gordon loved to learn new things, he came back again and again to the things that he valued most, his family, his friends, his home, and certain books that he read and re-read again and again.
From his poor childhood and intellectual promise, through great friendships and hard work, from his love of learning and travel, his family and his success. This was a man who had seen the world. A wise and wonderful man who could have lived anywhere, but knew the value of his cherished friends, his family and his home.
It is true that there is much sadness here today, but all of these journeys that took Gordon away from here and back home again, will live on in all of you, enriching, guiding and blessing your lives. This is what we will remember.