The only thing in this blog about antiques is the lead character, my friend Rosie. I can honestly say I’ve never met another person like her. She’s got quite a story to tell. I was lucky enough to share a big moment with her this past week by helping her celebrate her 86th birthday in typical Rosie fashion, checking a dream off her bucket list and going (against her late husband Bill’s wishes) skydiving.
I first met Rosie through my Momma Jane. My Mom made the decision to move to Fort Smith in August of 2017 with my Dad who was in ailing health and we subsequently lost in November of 2017. At first I was nervous that Mom would regret moving to a new town and then soon becoming widowed. I’m glad to say I was very wrong. I am blown away by her support system of the local “Betty's” rallying around in a widows’ club of sorts. Whether they’re playing water volleyball, going to concerts, pot lucking for card night, or line dancing, you want to be friends with these people. They never stop. My mom’s been on four cruises already this year. It’s not even June.
Rosie was a name I’d often heard as one of her truest friends that helped my Mom feel more at home in her new community. After meeting Rosie, I learned all the stories were true. This was a woman who had been there, done that, and had a built her own family and had done so with the unintentional intention of making others feel happy, included and loved.
Rosie first moved to Fort Smith in the 1960’s with her husband, Bill, and working as a waitress at various restaurants for the better part of twenty years. She's also very involved with local groups, weekly meetings, and has been for 40 plus years. So many in the community know and LOVE her. What’s not to love? Her wit, humor, heart, and approach to life are infectious.
Her friend of 20 plus years, Tracy Hamilton, has this to say about her.
“I'm sure we met at a yard sale because that is one of the things Rosie loves best. She loves a good bargain and is not afraid to haggle to get a better price. Rosie never meets a stranger and knows practically everyone in Fort Smith and can recall stories on each of them. I know Rosie probably made really good tips since she is so friendly and pleasant to talk to. Rosie is always in a good mood and hugs my neck when I see her and leaves me with I love you at the end of the visit. As for life lessons, Rosie says to never look back and look forward to each new day. She treats everyone the same - like a dear friend - and I am trying to learn that technique. Even when her husband, Bill, passed away - Rosie bounced back and continued to live her life. She does give in to occasional indulgences that she knows Bill would frown on, but she says Bill would want her to be happy. That is probably the best word I can use to describe Rosie Johnson - happy to be alive, happy to be my friend and happy to get to the next yard sale.”
Back in August of 2018, Rosie shared with my Mom she had never been on a cruise but had always dreamed of it. So they plan a cruise to the Caribbean. Rosie was the star of the ship, front and center for the Elton John impersonator and led the musical show every night. Temporary tattoos, wigs, and all, she truly is always the life of the party. She sincerely enjoys and invests in every moment.
After that cruise, Mom started hatching a plan to check off another of her bucket list goals. Rosie wanted to go skydiving. “If George Bush can do it at 89, why can’t I?” Preach, girl. Yes.
My Mom, knowing my husband, Aaron, had jumped before, put him in charge of organizing an epic jump trip via SkyDive Fayetteville for Rosie with all her swim friends chipping in to make it happen. By this point, Rosie and I were buds. After all, she never meets a stranger.
I was proud to have my husband escorting these girls. Here he is, with the fearless Rosie and an equally brave and beautiful Sharon, friend of Rosie’s who also jumped for her bucket list.
What’s most beautiful about this entire lesson and experience is how we can, despite age or limitations, live boldly. Yes, these are widows. Yes, they are “elderly”. But do they break mold for daily personal happiness and comradery? ABSOLUTELY. They rally. They live by example. They DO. And together, there’s incredible strength and inspiration in number.
Friendships made that are now family are a beautiful thing. I’m in awe of my Mother redefining herself. Despite recent loss, she has built a family of support here outside of blood. Despite having lost her husband five years ago and being a sprig of 86 years, Rosie is taking the bull by the horns and is geared up to embrace the day, whatever it may hold. This day just happened to hold jumping out of a plane at 10,200 feet.
The entire day and all those gathered in support was very impactful. Thanks to a secret phone call to Ch 5 News (I was told it was from her friend Mary, a viewer of 40+ years who threatened to never watch the station again if they didn’t feature Rosie’s story) Julianna Clipson 5NEWS was there waiting for us, mic in hand, ready for an unexpected adventure. By the end of the day, Rosie had both she and her cameraman wrapped around her finger, laughing, claiming adoption. She got to be Queen for a Day. She deserves to be celebrated.
In a trickle effect, one person can influence so many and this is a perfect example. Rosie teaches by DOING, not just by talking. Even though she does plenty of that (her one liners are epic!) the general consensus is, “I want to be just like Rosie when I grow up".
I wasn’t able to jump this time, but after seeing her absolute joy, fearlessness and freedom of experience, and hearing her now future plans for a 90th birthday jump, I’m going out of that plane with her. Or heck, why wait until then? When Rosie says jump, we’ll go. Why waste today.
In her words, “I thank God every morning when I rise, I thank God every night when I retire.”
Make the most of today no matter your constraints. Take a cue from Rosie. There’s nothing standing in our way. Except ourselves.
Do you know Rosie and have a story of your own to share in how she’s influenced your life? She’d love to hear it. After sharing the 5 NEWS coverage and online comments with her from my laptop, she's been so tickled over the response to her big feature story. Send us a message or leave it in the comments and we’ll be sure it gets to her.