Published On: Mon, Oct 21st, 2019

They Made Their Marks, Left City on High Note

 

 

C. Ron Allen

Boca Raton, FL – I am and will be forever grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with my readers each week over the past eight years.

As I have often opined in this forum, deaths seem to come in threes. And while I am not one who easily take comfort in the haphazard courses our lives take, I am naturally inclined to seek patterns, even when there are none to be sought. 

In recent days, the Grim Reaper snatched six community servants from our ranks – Ida Elizabeth “Libby” Jackson Wesley, Rosetta McGriff Rolle, Rose Edmonds Bush, Albert Green, Robert “Bob” Gregor Currie, and Donald Cooper.

They all shared some common chords – all were unsung heroes who operated in their community and government, each devoted years working on issues to improve quality of life.

Some were venerated, others were quiet, but whether they made news headlines or they worked under the radar, they all left an indelible mark on those lives they touched.

I cannot do all of them justice in this column. Therefore, I will focus on the three women this week and continue with the men next week.

All three ladies were supportive of me during my early days in Delray Beach. They were proud to see a young black male journalist telling their stories. 

Rosetta Rolle, 96, was revered in Democratic politics in southern Palm Beach County back in the 1970s and ‘80s. She was “the plug” to reach black voters in Delray Beach.

Her influence dates to 1946 when she helped organized the Delray Beach Voters League, shortly after the state legislature banned whites-only primaries. 

Over the years, she’d share stories of how they fought for blacks to register to vote and how it broke her heart to see the apathy, especially around election time.

“I remember when we used to have as many as 400 people at our meetings,” the former 20-year president of the Delray Beach Voters League once told a newspaper reporter. “Now we’re lucky if we get 40. People were more active then because we had so much to lose and so much to gain.” 

In June 1980, President Jimmy Carter invited Ms. Rolle to attend the White House Conference on Families, and in 1992, she was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

She also led the initiative to rename NW 2nd Street to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Delray Beach.

Like Ms. Rolle, Ms. Wesley helped weave the fabric that made this oceanfront enclave what it is today.

Today, many people know Ms. Wesley, 85, as someone after whom the plaza/amphitheater at NW. 5th and Atlantic avenues is named.

Others know of the woman, who spearheaded a group of homeowners from the Jefferson Manor community to create an event in 1978, to celebrate their newly formed home owners’ association.

The celebration, which became the Roots Cultural Festival, ran for about 35 years and provided entertainment and later educational, musical or sports programs to children interested in exploring their African American and Caribbean heritage. 

The programs, the first of its kind in Florida, was in response to a state legislative mandate passed in 1994 requiring students from grades kindergarten through 12 to receive instructions in the history and contributions of African and African-Americans in all subject areas.

When a Delray Beach police fatally shot Jerrod Miller, 16, in 2005, many feared the shooting would result in turmoil.

However, Ms. Wesley, a forward thinker who retired from the school district, was instrumental in orchestrating private meetings with city officials and invited the then mayor to address the community at a meeting at Pompey Park.

She also was a connector. Shortly after meeting her, she told me, “you have to meet Jimmy T,“ referring to James Thomas, a radio icon at then radio station WEDR. She was also instrumental in Thomas launching his career.

Unlike Ms. Rolle or Wesley, you would not find Ms. Bush, 89, at City Commission meetings raising cane for her people. Still, she did her part to ensure they were prepared for life.

The quiet and gentle woman who bore a trademark smile, often took her daily walk in her northwest neighborhood. She had a distinguished career as a school librarian, and even after she retired, spent her Saturday mornings helping kids with homework through the Operation Save the Children program at Pompey Park.

I met Ms. Bush in 1989, and she made it her quest to find me a spouse. 

“C. Ron and I have so many sorority sisters, who are single. I need to introduce you to them,” she would say. 

For close to 30 years, she would always greet with me with that infectious smile and left me with the blessing, “I am going to find him a wife, C. Ron.” 

I love you Rose Bush. 

Rest in peace, Ms. Rolle, Ms. Wesley and Ms. Bush. You leave Delray Beach on a high note. 

C. Ron Allen can be reached at crallen@Delraybeachtribune.com or 561-665-0151.

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  1. Byron Dobson says:

    Excellent column and written from the heart, C.Ron. I just heard today about Mrs. Wesley and Mrs. Rolle and decided to look on the internet. Keep striving.

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