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The 'Bag Lady' in the Rolls-Royce

June 17, 1985|GARY LIBMAN

Each week Lucy Rosenwald takes her white Rolls-Royce from her high-rise Century City condominium to become a bag lady.

Driving to the homes of West Los Angeles friends, Rosenwald, 66, fills the trunk and back seat of her white Silver Shadow with newspapers, bottles and cans.

Then she motors to a West Los Angeles recycling center where she loads the newspapers into a large cart and carries bags of bottles and cans to a scale. She collects about $4.50 and sends it to a home for the blind.

Accepts Donations

Afterward, Rosenwald, who accepts donations for any cause but her own, may drop off garments at a used clothing store, pick up upholstery to be used in dolls sold for charity, or stuff envelopes in a windowless room at UCLA.

Rosenwald is married to Richard Rosenwald, 78, nephew of Julius Rosenwald, one of the major developers of Sears, Roebuck & Co. Free to do anything they want, the couple have spent the last 15 years working almost full time as volunteers.

Tall, white-haired Richard Rosenwald says that investments have allowed him to avoid working for a living his entire life and have enabled his wife to remain out of work since they married in 1950.

"Why should I work," he asked, "if I'm going to take a job from someone who needs it?"

So the Rosenwalds sit at a large antique French desk in their condominium sewing stuffed cotton beads for necklaces they sell for charity.

Surrounded by pottery from around the world and abstract, Indian and Afro-American art, they may then leave for Hope for Hearing in the UCLA Rehabilitation Center.

Richard Rosenwald estimates that the couple have donated 7,000 hours each during the last five years to the Rehabilitation Center, which aids children who have muscular dystrophy, and to Hope for Hearing, which provides money for research into ear diseases and deafness.

Richard Rosenwald comes to volunteerism naturally. Rosenwald's uncle, Julius, became president of Sears in 1908 and ran the company until his death in 1932. He donated $63 million to philanthropies, including $7 million to start the famed Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

(His grandfather Samuel, a tailor, lived in Springfield, Ill., and sold uniforms to the Union Army during the Civil War. Richard Rosenwald says that when his father, Morris, was a boy in 1864, he sat on Abraham Lincoln's lap.)

Lucy Rosenwald's connection with volunteerism is more recent. Arriving in the United States from Russia at age 2 as Lucy Barondess, she studied ballet with George Balanchine and won a part as a chorus girl in a 1934 movie, "College Rhythm."

She worked as a model for a few years in New York until she had her first child by her first husband in 1938.

Moving to California in 1941, she centered most of her attention on her children, who include a daughter from her first marriage, a son from Richard Rosenwald's former marriage, and two sons the Rosenwalds had together.

After the children left home, their parents began to devote time to volunteer work, and one day recently Lucy Rosenwald collected newspapers wearing a navy blue African dashiki, light blue cotton pants and one of her cotton-beaded necklaces.

"I get a lot of pleasure when I know I'm doing something to help," she said. "I used to know Maurice Chevalier and I've seen all the fame and the hoopla. It doesn't last. So you have to live and do the best you can everyday for everyone.

"I don't like to waste my time being social in lunches," she said and added that she enjoys working with her husband.

"I don't like leaving Dick alone," she said. "My time with him is very valuable. Every minute I'm with him I benefit. My husband is very good to me and my children. . . ."

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