June 17--The city celebrated Rose Beal's 90th birthday in 2011. On that festive evening at the Idaho State Historical Museum, one of musical performances, speeches, poetry readings, a cake covered with roses and Beal sporting a tiara and feather boa, everyone pledged to get together again in 2021 when Beal turns 100.
In the meantime, she's receiving a new honor, a legacy garden bearing her name.
Having her garden near the many tributes to Anne Frank, including a bronze likeness of the young diarist, means a lot to Beal.
"You know, we came from the same town," said Beal.
She and Frank were natives of Frankfurt, Germany. Beal was older than Frank by seven years. They didn't know one another, but lived in the city at the same time.
The garden, Beal said, "is a great honor, and humbling."
"I'm a little embarrassed to tell people about it. I don't know if I deserve it," she said. "I had nothing to do with my survival. It was sheer luck."
Beal fled Nazi Germany with her mother and two brothers. Her father stayed behind in France. He died during the war of natural causes. Beal lost her extended family in the Holocaust.
Many in the community believe Beal deserves a garden and much more. At 92, she remains an outspoken advocate for human rights. She still travels to give speeches to Idaho students and others, most recently in Wood River Valley after she heard reports of students exchanging racial slurs.
The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights (formerly the Idaho Human Rights Education Center), which sits beside the memorial, has set the goal of raising $75,000 for the garden by Aug. 1. A recent fundraiser at the new Zions Bank at 8th and Main kicked off the project, raising $25,000 in a single evening. If the center can raise another $50,000 by Aug. 1, garden construction will begin at the end of August.
The legacy garden is the first part of the center's "Living the Legacy" project, a $1.6 million effort to create an endowment to support the memorial and education center indefinitely. The project also will pay for new classroom space and additional art elements.
The city of Boise is now replacing stone-facing throughout the memorial. The stone was starting to show wear, said Dan Prinzing, executive director of the Wassmuth Center. If everything goes as planned, the work will continue through the summer and be done in time for the garden installation.
LIVING THE GOOD LIFE
After the horror of her childhood, Beal made a good life for herself in America. Her ability to connect people to the realities of World War II as a first person witness is invaluable, said Prinzing. But that's just part of her story.
Beal became a furniture buyer for Macy's in Los Angeles in the early 1950s. She overcame bosses who told her furniture buyers "had to be male, at least 40, and portly." She was none of those things, but excelled anyway.
"That was my career and I loved it," she said.
She's lived in Boise, where her son also lives, for about a decade. She believes in the promise and opportunities for young people in America. That's always part of her message, along with the need to preserve civil and human rights for all.
"I might have become a lawyer had I remained in Germany. But I never could have had the life I had in America," said Beal.
"Rose is just one of the most amazing women. She's changed my world," said Lisa Uhlmann, one of the original founders of the Anne Frank Memorial. "Rose's message has inspired thousands of children."
The plants in the Rose Beal Legacy Garden will be symbolic. One of the most meaningful will be the sapling grown from the chestnut tree that stood outside the Amsterdam house where the Franks hid from the Nazis. Anne's diary includes several mentions of the tree. Boise'sAnne Frank Memorial is one of 11 sites in the U.S. -- along with the White House -- to receive a sapling.
Boise Parks & Recreation has cared for the sapling since its arrival in Boise last spring. Crews will prepare the soil to get it ready for the invaluable addition.
Scores of the orange, butter-yellow roses bred and named for Anne Frank will form the perimeter of the garden.
Anna Webb: 377-6431
(c)2014 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)
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