Rose LeBrint Fuchs
January 24, 1911 – January 1, 1991
Her memory is a blessing
My mother Rose LeBrint Fuchs was a petite woman, 4 feet 10 inches tall and for most of her life she weighed less than 100 lbs. But she had a larger than life spirit. Mom described herself using the words from a 1930’s Stella Brooks torch song: “I’m a little piece of leather, don’t you know. So well put together, don’t you know.” And she was, and she knew it and we knew it.
Mom was adventuresome, creative, brave, provocative and unique. She had many passions, including her love of the trees which she observed and identified on her many city walks.
She had a flirtatious manner throughout her life. She would look directly at someone (man or woman) with her engaging smile and roll her right shoulder in a subtle, sweet and surprisingly seductive way. And men and women would be drawn into her spell. Her attractiveness to both sexes, at least in her telling, went way back. She said that when she was in her early twenties, she was at a girlfriend’s house and the girlfriend and her brother both chased after the young sexy unmarried Rose “in that way.”
Mom was very beautiful and a classy dresser when she and my dad “went out on the town.” She got married in a black and red velvet dress which she chose because she could wear it again. There are no pictures of her wedding or the dress; it must have been very sexy!
She became thrifty, some would say cheap, as time went by. When my two sisters and I were growing up, sometimes she bought our clothes at the thrift stores. In Mom’s later years, she got her own clothes from the Ark Thrift Shop where she volunteered. Mom wore a size 1 and there wasn’t much competition for clothes in her size. Her volunteer duties consisted of sweeping the floor and sorting through clothes. When she found garments in her size, she would put aside to purchase and take home.
Mother was very intelligent and proud of her intelligence. Always reading one book or another; her favorite books were Marcel Proust Remembrance of Things Past and Hermann Mann Magic Mountain. She read Proust in French as well as English. She went to college at age 57, when there were very few returning adults in college, and graduated in 1971.
Mom got absorbed in and passionate about piano for some years. Then she took up oil painting, making copies of the Masters’ paintings. She hung out at the Art Institute of Chicago and had a vast knowledge of Italian, Impressionists and other painters. On the walls in my parent’s home, she hung copies of their paintings and her hand painted copies. Under each painting, she posted a card with the name of the painting, the artist and commentary, like they do in museums. At some point, Mom started knitting and combined her love of art and knitting in a sweater with a design based on the geometric paintings of Piet Mondrian.
Mom took her first trip to Israel without Dad. Later on, after Dad retired, they traveled together internationally. On a tour they took to Italy, they frequently left the tour group to go on their own private Rose Fuchs led tours. And often they would return late to the tour bus because they were busy following the trail of mom’s favorite Italian artist or art collector.
Mom also went to Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic March on Washington on August 28, 1963 without Dad. Going to the MLK March was the only overt political act she took in her later years. When mom was younger, she was a liberal and an activist. But as she grew older she was not much interested in politics. Her creative pursuits took most of her time and energy; these pursuits included writing a novel about middle aged people which she destroyed before letting anyone read it.
Mom was a loner, more interested in solitary pursuits, painting, piano, knitting, reading, writing, rather than socializing. Dad on the other hand was a very social guy who wanted company over most Saturday nights for dinner. Then Mom would research cook books for new chicken recipes, always chicken because it was cheaper than beef. She would frequently make a 2 layer Jell-O mold, that my sister Judy calls the pink and red combo, with one layer of red Jell-O and frozen strawberries and a second layer of red Jell-O mixed with sour cream. I make a healthier version of this, with one layer of strawberry Jell-O and fresh strawberries and a second layer of strawberry Jell-O mixed with yogurt.
For all the years they were married, Mom got a weekly allowance from Dad for groceries and household items. Even though Dad told her there was no need, she would scrimp on her expenses and put the money she saved into her own personal account at the Albany Park Bank, Kimball and Lawrence in Chicago. Though she told her daughters that a married woman must have her own money, when her savings at the bank got to $500, she would return most of the money to Dad. She didn’t need or want an excess of money, nor did she care about material possessions. Except once she paid $500 for an ironwork sculpture of the pantomime, Marcel Marceau, dressed in clown clothes standing firmly with his arms stretched wide. She mounted the sculpture on a step-stool she painted black and he stood proudly in the living room
Rose LeBrint Fuchs was an extraordinary woman and I hope in some small ways her three daughters and her three granddaughters and one grandson and their progeny will carry on her legacy.