When Rose Patzloff turned 80 on Oct. 1, 2018, she decided she wasn’t going to renew her driver’s license. She didn’t feel quite up to all the testing nor, for that matter, with the driving itself. She remembers her husband, Joe, telling her not to worry, that he’d do all the driving and take her wherever she needed to go.
“That’s what was going to happen,” she says, pauses, turns to me, and says, “But, then it didn’t happen.”
A few moments later she starts telling me the rest of the story.
“A couple of months after I decided not to drive anymore, Joe started saying his legs hurt. I got worried, and told the kids. Fortunately, all the family were home for Christmas break,” she recalls of that difficult time.
“An ambulance came and Joe was taken to El Centro Regional. They hooked him up to monitors and finally they let me into the room. The monitors were making noise and I remember his eyes were closed. I sat down beside him. When I held his hand, he opened his eyes, and looked at me. All he said was, ‘I’m ready to die.’ After this, I noticed his heart monitor had stopped.”
These words, spoken to me almost four months after Joe’s passing on Dec. 23, 2018, are expressed simply. What Rose is saying can easily be pictured. But her eyes — grey, kind eyes — express so much more; shock and hurt.
She and Joe had a marriage that lasted 59 years — a very happy one by all accounts. They raised two children, were devoted parents, active in the community, traveled together. They did everything together.
“They were," as family friend Judy Santistevan says when describing them as a couple, “just two kind souls.”
Death is the last farewell, and I certainly don’t mean to make light of it. It’s a painful experience. But it so happens that a few days before I interviewed Rose a Facebook post drew my attention. Charlie Brown and Snoopy are sitting at the end of a pier looking out at the vast ocean. Charlie Brown says, “Someday, we will all die, Snoopy!” Snoopy, in his Yoda-like wisdom answers, “True, but on all the other days, we will not.”
I thought of that quote after interviewing Rose and hearing her story. What exactly has she done on all those “other days” that she’s been busy living life? She might not remember all that she has actually done, but her friends do.
Rose tells me how much she’s counted on her family and friends for their help and support, especially after Joe’s passing. She thinks of them as her bulwarks. But does she remember that it was she and Joe who first planted the seeds of kindness in the first place? Each did it in their own way, but since this is Rose’s story, I will mostly focus on her and what she has accomplished in her lifetime. Not that she would tell me this, but her friends have.
Born in Lincoln, Neb., Rose and her sister, Donna, were raised by their loving mother. Her mother worked in a bakery store part-time, and on weekends would take Rose and Donna to help out. It was here that Rose picked up the baking skills she was to use throughout her life.
They didn’t have a car, so they walked to the Methodist Church that was one block away. It turned out to be a good fit, and Rose remains a Methodist to this day.
After graduating from high school, where she made several friends, she started working for a stock brokerage company. Located close by was Wells Fargo Bank, where Joe happened to work. She remembers it being a rainy day — not too unusual in the high precipitation area of Lincoln — and Joe coming in to say hello.
“The next thing he said was, ‘Do you want to go out and see the flood waters?’ I did want to go, and so I said, ‘yes.’” It was the start of something.
Rose and Ronald “Joe” Patzloff were married on April 19, 1959.
They moved to Holtville when Joe was offered a position at the local First National Bank of Holtville. Eventually they purchased a house on Cedar Avenue. Not being able to have children of their own, they adopted two children from Catholic Charities: Michael, born on Feb. 2, 1968, and Dina, who was born on April 29, 1970. In this way, they had children of their own who they could love.
Rose was a stay-at-home mother who wanted to take care of her children. She would drop them off at school and then pick them up at the end of the day. On one of those occasions when she was waiting, the principal asked her if she wanted a job.
“I told him I couldn’t work because of the children, but he said something could be arranged. So that’s how I started working at Finley (Elementary) School,” she recalls.
Little did she know at the time that she was perfectly cut out for the job, or rather, jobs. Her work morphed from teacher’s aide to being the clerk in charge of reading materials, and then being in charge of the media center. She had high organizational skills that gave her the ability to stay on top of things, no matter how many details were involved.
Says friend Betty Rodahl, who was a teacher at Finley back then, “When Rose worked in the media center, we (teachers) all knew that if we had anything that hadn’t been turned in, we’d better hurry and turn it in right away or we’d be in trouble. Rose kept track of things.”
I can hear a note of admiration in Betty Rodahl’s words. It wouldn’t be the first time.
The second part to Rose Patzloff’s story will be included in the April 25 issue of the Holtville Tribune.
Marcia R. Jennings is a member of the Holtville Woman’s Club.