She was having a very hard time with the whole year. In January, she had an aortic valve replacement, triple bypass, then a major lung infection. But as we talked and she began sharing her story, her liveliness and her true nature surfaced.
“My husband died in 1972 and left me with six children ages 10-20.” Pause. “And I’m still angry about that!”
Fortunately he left her with a good enough income to take care of the family, and she continued to work in jobs at the church, becoming the music department manager and bookkeeper.
A few highlights of Rose Mary:
She was the first female student at the University of St. Louis in 1947, studying music.
She won a Westinghouse Scholarship and transferred to Washington University to earn a degree in chemical engineering.
She met and married George Taylor, a fellow engineering student.
She obtained an FBI Q1490 security clearance and worked separating U235 from U238 and tested radiation going into the Mississippi River.
In 1951, she and George moved to San Diego and worked at Convair. Although they were not hiring women, they hired Rose Mary and she worked in the test lab.
After their children were born, Rose Mary stayed home to raise them, as well as her 11-year-old half sister. She volunteered in just about everything she could: PTA, League of Woman Voters, YWCA, San Diego Church Women United, La Jolla Open Housing Committee, Salvation Army [founder of Haven Project for unwed mothers], San Diego Opera Board, La Jolla Chair San Diego Symphony, President of California Ballet, Starlight Society Board, La Jolla Stage Company Board, San Diego Metropolitan Opera Auditions Committee, San Diego Master Chorale.
She became fascinated with Parliamentary Procedures and wrote by-laws for many nonprofits.
She persuaded the League of Women Voters to get the first Selectric typewriter in town and learned how to use it well. Soon she saw a community need for printing and decided to go into business for herself.
In 1978, Rose Mary opened Imprinteur printing invitations, followed by a wedding shop. She bought an embossing machine and the first typesetting computer in La Jolla. She was the first and only solo woman printer in the Printing Industries Association. The business grew and expanded before she sold it and tried to retire in 1990.
The Welcome Wagon, who she had done some printing for, had an opening for South La Jolla and asked her to step in temporarily in 1990. She enjoyed it so much that 15 years later, she was still doing it. When that company closed in 1999, she and her daughter, Julie Taylor, founded San Diego Newcomers to carry on the torch of welcoming newcomers.
The Village Vaudeville, created by the Soroptomist Club in the 1980s to raise money for widows or divorcées getting back in to the workforce, featured Rose Mary dancing in a chorus line called the Hot Flashettes. The show was popular and ran for 11 years.
In 1989, the Salvation Army honored her as a Woman of Dedication and she has twice received the Star Award from the San Diego Performing Arts League.
Throughout her San Diego life she has sung in the La Jolla Presbyterian Church Choir and the San Diego Master Chorale, retiring last summer after 54 years. She was even registered as a vocal instrument with the San Diego Symphony.
At 83, she is active in a club she helped found, Club Altura. She is also taking classes in law and music appreciation.
Rose Mary is a woman of power. When she set her mind to something, she did it — even if no one else ever had. She does not think of herself as extraordinary, but those who meet her do.
— SharonAnn Hamilton is the founder of The Retirement Concierge, a service designed to help those facing retirement navigate the ins and outs of life transitions. www.theretirementconcierge.com