“I didn’t realize how much of an impact my dad made in the Jewish community until I saw the front-page obituary in the American Israelite,” Ron Rose’s daughter Sally Rose said. “People have even come up to me since I moved back to Cincinnati to tell me I look like him and how important he was to them. You know, ‘he mentored me, he was my friend, et cetera’.”
While it has been a year since Ron Rose passed away at the age of 91, his dedication and impact are still being felt at the Mayerson JCC. He was a former president of the J and Commissioner of the Men’s Softball League.
Those who knew Ron spoke about his gift of gab and his ability to get people engaged in community life.
“Ron loved the J,” fellow softball player and JCC Director of Development Rick Lefton said. “It became his home, and he made a lasting impact on our community. In fact, I can’t think of anyone who more enthusiastically embodied the mission of the J every day: connecting people so that they can live happier and fuller lives, creating a more vibrant Jewish community.”
After serving in the Korean War and taking part in the Army’s jazz band, he moved to Cincinnati to teach art at Western Hills High School. Ron sought out a fitness center where he could continue being active and join a softball league. He joined the Jewish Community Center, located in Roselawn at the time, and remained active at the Mayerson JCC in Amberley Village throughout his lifetime. He eventually started selling life insurance; he worked out every day, then would “hold court,” as his daughter Julie said, in the J Café.
More than any other sport, Ron loved playing softball. It fulfilled his athletic drive, but more importantly, it created community.
“Passion drove him,” Lefton said. “In my opinion, participation in the league is what kept him going.”
Ron played in the JCC Men’ Softball League for nearly 50 years. He served as Commissioner, played in the league until he was in his late 80s, then later coached.
“He liked to find new players for the league,” Lefton said. “He recruited new people and kept the league fresh. I think it gave him a reason to get out of bed every day.”
One of those recruits was his grandson, Zac Swadner. Lefton recalls that Ron said he needed to continue being active and eating healthy so he could keep up with his grandson as he neared the end of his softball career.
Ron battled and beat cancer several times, while continuing to show up to games. After each diagnosis, his first question was always, “Will I be able to play softball this summer?” Fortunately, he could always participate.
Ron made such an impact that they now have a Rookie of the Year award in his name. The first Ron Rose Rookie of the Year was awarded to Cam Kirzner in 2021 when Ron still served as a commissioned member.
Sports and fitness were the reasons Ron joined the J, but his impact and involvement grew deeper as he became more engaged. The JCC recognized his interpersonal and relationship building skills and asked him to join the board. In 1972, he became president. He continued serving in this volunteer capacity and, like with softball, inspired others to join him.
He often looked to his softball teammates as potential new board members. Howard Schwartz was one such teammate. On the softball field, Ron caught while Howard pitched.
“It all came full circle when he got me on the board and I eventually served as president in 2008,” Schwartz said.
Another was Joel Moskowitz. Joel was a lawyer by profession and knew a lot about business and finance. Ron encouraged him to become a board member because Joel’s strengths complimented Ron’s own.
“He knew his limitations. When he became a leader at the JCC, there were certain things he wasn’t strong at, but he surrounded himself with people who had that expertise,” Moskowitz said. “He was absolutely tremendous at getting people interested and involved.”
Moskowitz went on to serve as president of the J twice, in 1977 and 1995.
Connecting people, identifying their strengths, and getting them engaged in a meaningful way was Ron’s passion. It was also important to Ron to see the softball league continue to thrive, so he made a generous $10,000 donation to the J through the Create Your Jewish Legacy (CYJL) program. This will help ensure the league, which started in 1945 and is the J’s longest-running program, will continue for generations to come.
“Making a legacy gift through CYJL will help the Mayerson JCC continue connecting people so that they can live happier and fuller lives,” Lefton said. “As someone who has planned a CYJL gift myself, I know it’s the last lesson I can teach my kids: take care of the institutions that took care of us.”