People who believe in service above self are often inspired by someone along the way. In the case of Warren Rose, it was his father. A Father’s Day post on Facebook said lots about the dad Warren knew, but it really said a lot about Warren as well.
Warren is one of those rare individuals who began giving back to the Evergreen community almost from the day he and his wife, Betsy, moved here in 2009, relocating from Elizabeth after their daughters took flight from the nest.
Like his father, he believes in the adage that “what you live on is what you earn, but what your life is is what you give.”
“Evergreen felt comfortable from day one – like an old shoe,” he says of the choice to finally live where they wanted to live. “Everyone we met treated us like we’d lived here for a long time.”
Growing up in Wataga, Illinois – a town of about 500 Midwesterners – instilled a sense of community, the Prairie State transplant says. But observing his parents, who struggled yet always helped others, is what influenced Warren more than anything else.
During the early 1960s Warren’s father, the mayor of Wataga for 28 years, secured grant money as well as federal, state and county funding to make his small town “the only community of its size in southern Illinois to have paved streets, public water, a city-wide sewer system and other amenities and services usually reserved for larger municipalities.”
“He built a public bandstand for summer music events, acquired a snow plow, tractors and fire trucks to help service our community,” Warren’s FB post read. “He took it upon himself to mow the ample summertime grass and weeds along the road into our town. He was also the chief of police and for awhile, the fire chief … all for $1 a year.”
At Christmastime, his dad would collect the letters written to Santa and would handwrite a letter and send a gift that was delivered by the post office. Even Warren’s mother didn’t know about these acts of kindness until the death of her husband. “They didn’t talk about it,” Warren explains. “It was the act of doing it, not the accolades, that made it worth it.”
After retiring from a career in mergers and acquisitions that planted him in New York, Chicago and LA, Warren is following in his father’s footsteps. He prefers to “fly under the radar” and hides behind dark glasses, but he’s really quite visible. Whenever there’s reason to be in costume, Warren and Betsy are first to show up incognito. (Haven’t seen him in an ostrich costume yet….)
“A career doesn’t matter. Education doesn’t matter,” he says emphatically. “It’s all about giving back. It’s all about a sense of community.”
He’s a regular at the Seniors’ Resource Center, taking “Day-Out” clients on virtual vacations weekly, far beyond the usual “sights,” using a computer and a projection screen. He picks a destination – London, Paris, the Greek Isles – shows them a picture of the airplane and a diagram of the inside configuration so they can pick their seats, tells them their flight numbers and departure/arrival times, and makes arrangements for them to be picked up at the airport. They might see the double-decker bus that takes them to their hotel, then an image of the hotel and get a virtual tour of the inside. They choose restaurants and look at menus and discuss the unusual foods offered, and of course they see the sights. Discussions ensue with regard to music typical of that country and the people who live there.
“I get 10 times more out of it than I put into it,” Warren says. He can also be found parking cars for EChO at the Jobs Fair and helping to clean up downtown as well as serving on the Transportation Advisory Committee now addressing the green bus program, which is in jeopardy if the community doesn’t increase ridership to an acceptable benchmark. “Some people need an affordable way to get food, get to the doctors or doing whatever they need to do.”
Warren asks the tough questions when he serves on a committee.
He’s also always early. That stems from his dad as well, who would leave before 6:00 to get to work by 8:00. The drive wasn’t far, but Dad maintained, “If my car breaks down, I’m still able to walk and make it to work on time.” He never missed a day and was never late a day, Warren recalls, adding that he’d accumulated a year of vacation time when he retired from his job as an electrician at Illinois Power Company.
His devotion to the Seniors’ Resource Center comes from his parents' caring for others. He’s a member of the Paul Harris Society through Evergreen Rotary and supports the elimination of polio in Third World countries, an interest that traces to his mother’s collecting money for the March of Dimes and instilling in him an understanding of people with disabilities.
He and Betsy are sponsors of the Evergreen Lake Concert series. You won't see their names on the list of sponsors – it's part of his attempt to fly under the radar. He may not be able to provide the bandstand, but he can ensure quality entertainment and that the concerts will remain free to the public. He does write checks in support of certain charities, but he also enjoys volunteering his time to be part of a process.
He's a member of the current Leadership Evergreen class, soaking up information about the area he calls 'home' and likely scoping out opportunities for future engagement.
Warren is a person constantly on the move – always in a forward direction, mind you. He loves bottling his own wine, listening to music, appreciating art, and exercising to the extent of participating in races similar to the Tough Mudder. He’s even building an obstacle course on his acreage.
At one time he and Betsy owned more than 25 animals including thoroughbred horses, a breeding emu pair and pygmy goats among other barnyard critters. Now they have no pets whatsoever.
“Where we live gives us our sense of who we are – a sense of community,” he explains. “Community is my family. As George Bernard Shaw once said, 'I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.'”
Talking more directly about Evergreen, he says, “This is a magical place – a collection of people and time and place. I can’t imagine my life without this place.”