Catholic Herald Staff
Editor’s note: Our condolences to Rose Tomesh’s family. The 2020 winner of the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s Pax Christi Award died Dec. 5 at home with her family.
Rose Tomesh, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Haugen, is the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 2020 Pax Christi Award winner.
Born in 1928 and having lived through historical moments and life circumstances few can relate to, she is a fitting winner in a year of continuing unrivaled circumstances.
Tomesh is one of the dwindling generation that lived through the Great Depression. Born in her aunt’s home to an unwed mother, Tomesh never met her father and was raised by her grandparents on a farm. As Czech was the language spoken at home, it wasn’t until she started school that Tomesh learned English.
She was one of those children who walked a distance to her country school. Although not uphill and down, she did have to cross a creek and go through a barnyard, where she sometimes was chased by geese and a bull.
She said it a was a good and blessed childhood during simpler times.
She would’ve liked to have attended high school, but Tomesh’s grandpa said no.
“You gotta help on the farm,” Tomesh repeated his words. “So, I stayed home.”
“If you were told to do something you did it,” she added, and there was “no squabbling” with your elders.
When Tomesh married her husband in 1946, he had just finished three-and-a-half years in the military service during World War II. The couple bought a farm and she helped milk their herd of 12 cows by hand. They had electricity, but like many of their neighbors, water was hand-pumped and there was no indoor plumbing.
“We put our heads together and made it work,” she said.
Tomesh’s answers were straightforward and to the point. They were simple – the way she described “life back then” – but not simplistic. She commented that the younger generation really can’t relate to much of what she lived through, and that raising her family on the farm, she was able to instill the values of hard work, sacrifice and taking “one day at a time.”
“We did the best we could,” she affirmed, proud that she and her husband were able to send their children to the Catholic school at Holy Trinity in Haugen.
She sees her grandchildren and great-grandchildren taking conveniences for granted and taken with their technology, but recognizes that they are definitely growing up in a different world. They don’t know any different, as was her experience.
Tomesh’s involvement with the Council of Catholic Women in her parish has taken on different forms and coincided with volunteer roles; she was active with the Haugen Catholic school, with the American Legion Auxiliary, with the local 4-H club as leader. She participated in school and parish fundraisers.
One of those well-remembered fundraisers was a church cookbook, so popular that a second printing was needed. Tomesh was instrumental in all aspects of making the cookbook and two of her favorite recipes – chocolate chip cookies and kolaches – are still staples for her family.
Normally she would make a big batch of chili for the men and boys who would hunt on the season opener, but with COVID-19, Tomesh acknowledged, “It’s been pretty quiet around here.”
A granddaughter who takes care of her basic needs is Tomesh’s main contact with the outside world, although she said someone is always calling, and she even had a few “of the window visits” earlier in the spring. She enjoys an occasional piece of birthday cake a family member will drop off for her when there has been a birthday in the family.
“You take one day at a time,” Tomesh said in response to what her take is on the current health crisis. She chuckled an affirmation that it is easier said than done but had no additional life advice.
Tomesh ended up in a nursing home for a few months after contracting and recuperating from the MRSA virus some years back. She was able to return home afterwards but admits getting around a little slower.
“I have lived through a lot – but a person has to,” she said.
This is the attitude she sees being lived around her as family members go to school and work, but then stay home as needed.
She says her prayers at night – the Our Father and Hail Mary – and adds a Hail Mary for each of her children and their families.
When asked where her children live – one in Alaska and two in the area – she shared that she had lost a son to cancer in 2011 and also cared for her husband through his cancer until he died at the age of 78.
Tomesh did acknowledge one practical “good therapy” for her.
“Put the music on. Whatever is on the radio – classical, Dr. Phil … That helps when it feels too quiet.”