Tuesday, April 5, 2011

REJOICE! In celebration of our beloved friend Rosie Williams

Long-time p:ear supporter/volunteer/pillar Rosie Williams passed away last week after battling with cancer. p:ear Executive Director Beth Burns reflects back on what Rosie meant both personally and to p:ear.

Several weeks ago I was rummaging through books on Rosie’s shelf and a piece of paper dropped on the floor, titled Immutable Law of the Spirit. The last line reads, “the power of love is the most potent healing force available to all humans."

I am grateful to have called Rosie my colleague as she was an unfaltering p:ear champion but most importantly, to have called her a loving and dearly loved friend. I believe without doubt that her unalterable and ageless spirit and love will continue to heal and guide many of us on our journeys.

I don’t quite remember when I met Rosie, but I vividly recall the day tenacity met its tenacious self on a sunny Portland street corner near old p:ear on SW Alder -- a confident spit-fire redhead, throwing fighting words at a younger, willful, intimidated me: “I am retiring soon and intend to choose one of about four or five nonprofits on my list that I would like to put my time and energy into, and p:ear is one of those I am considering."

I knew I wanted and needed her to choose p:ear; what I didn’t know was that this woman’s magnetic love and friendship would transform, shift and ultimately radiantly enhance my own life. I had met my match – an opportunity and challenge I would not let drift by without grabbing the anchor of this vibrant live wire, and holding tight.

I imagine all it took was some charm, a beer and a football game (I studied diligently on how to be a respectable Ducks fan!), and a true p:ear hero was about to emerge, her timing as impeccable as her astute humor. In hindsight, what it really took was the heart of this risky, passionate woman’s dedication and belief in strengthening and changing lives through relationships, the arts, conviction, community building and love.

That woman had unceasing guts and verve as she brazenly swept through the city engaging everyone she already knew threaded through all different professions and backgrounds as well as anyone she met on a yoga mat, at the gym, art openings, political gatherings, or on the corner of SE 26th and Clinton while preaching p:ear the whole time. Rosie helped connect us, creating strong communities and giving us the gift of friendships sure to last a lifetime.

One of our first official p:ear outings found us alone in a beer tent, trying to garner the support of her friend Rick, engulfed in a pummeling rain at 10am, watching some ridiculous sport they called cylcocross. Leaning over a frenzied tape barrier, all she had to say was “Beth, you’d be good at this” and the next season found me muddy and smiling with Rosie as my one and only official fan club member.

Rosie believed in p:ear and seemed to relish in her ability to connect those “with the big bucks” and/or big hearts with p:ear. p:ear’s success was deeply important to her as she brought her dynamic self and creativity into each interaction.

I used to teasingly introduce her as my secret weapon – but she truly was, both professionally and personally.

Her love was unconditional (well, there was the time I forgot to make her a name tag for a p:ear event!) She embodied integrity with absolute correlation between her word and deed, aside a steady demonstration of moral courage and strength. Rosie always showed up, possessing that rare art of the genuine and loyal. It never took long for people to curiously want to understand how they too could live with such vivaciousness.

She lived with a brave sense of adventure and was capable of profound reflection. Her spiritual depth and never ending search was inspiring and at times mysterious, yet so completely transparent: she lived her best truth, as human, struggling, wonderful and (at times) feisty as it was.

Rosie was one of those exceptional humans, strong enough to meet, embrace and fight for you. Your insecurities, inner tornadoes and the daily calamities of life could not move the foundation that she was. She seamlessly interjected “that fu**er” or a solid offering of a nudge or guidance when you needed it.

I admired gravely how ferociously she loved and cherished her family, celebrating each day of their lives through stories, photos and riveting tales of pride. I never knew if she felt sorry for me all those holidays I spent far from my family but what a gift it was to be brought into her family’s life.

If she wasn’t kicking your ass at Scrabble, demonstrating her yoga prowess, or simply bringing light into your life, she was carrying the weight of your burdens, or celebrating your joy, challenges and happiness while never forgetting anything that was important to you.

Her life and spirit are a true, rare blessing. The grace and depth she carried and breathed forth up until her final day have shattered my beliefs about the limitations of the strength and courage of the human spirit: she was right, it is immutable.

Thank you, Rosie.

And now you can fly our dear friend, so fly. For someday we will need you to teach us...


Beth & p:ear


  1. What a beautiful eulogy, Beth. I will miss seeing her sitting outside SubRosa on balmy evenings in the neighborhood.

  2. Beth this is a wonderful story to remember and honor your friend. The darkness of her absence will overshadowed by her impact to you and p;ear and the people she touched.

  3. I am crying, and smiling. Thanks Beth. This is just lovely.

  4. Oh Beth--
    I never had the privilege of knowing Rosie. Thanks for sharing some of her presence -- and your love for her -- with all of us.

  5. Beth. Yep. We had the privilege of knowing what it was like to have somebody truly on our side...she'd have loved my acupuncturist explaining to me that it is okay that I'm mad that she's gone, and that it has wreaked havoc with my liver meridian... Love to you. d