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Rowland Heights Honors Activist Who Walks Softly but Gets Things Done

February 19, 1987|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

When she was growing up in Rowland Heights, Carolyn Rosas wished for some of the things other communities had that hers lacked: a library, a post office, more schools and civic leaders who could get things done.

Until 1971, when Rosas quietly stepped into the role of civic leader, residents of Rowland Heights travelled at least seven miles to La Puente for the nearest library, post office and high school. The nearest fire station was four miles away, across two railroad tracks.

For the next 16 years, Rosas organized committees, met with government officials, searched for appropriate sites and accepted appointments to time-consuming county committees to bring such facilities to Rowland Heights, an unincorporated community in the hills between the City of Industry and La Habra Heights.

Now, to her surprise, a county park is being named for her. Supervisor Pete Schabarum's office has announced that Farjardo Park, a 6.6-acre park in the heart of town, will become Carolyn Rosas County Park sometime in the near future.

Rosas, a soft-spoken widow and mother of two, says she just saw what was needed and found out how to get it.

The county sees her as having an outstanding record of accomplishments.

Saying she feels "dazed, humble, awed and deeply honored," Rosas is self-conscious as she gropes for words to describe her surprise at being chosen for the honor.

"I just can't believe it. Why me?" she said.

The answer, from people who have worked with her, is that Rosas quietly gets things done, never expecting rewards or credit.

"There was no contest over this. Carolyn was a clear choice," said Ray Anderson, Schabarum's deputy, who sought other community leaders' opinions.

"We used to name parks posthumously as a memorial, but it's a lot nicer to do it with someone that the community knows," Anderson said. "Carolyn has been instrumental in so many things."

"She looks for ways to help," said William Lien, recently retired principal at Lassalette Elementary School where Rosas works part time as a community liaison. "She's really deserving. She's very quiet but she gets things done and people appreciate her."

Rosas was president of the Rowland Heights Woman's Club in 1971 and urged its membership to find out how the town could get its own library.

"We met with everyone we could think of, made phone calls, asked the county librarian to come out and tell us what we could do," she said. "We found a little empty store, and we were so happy to have a library set up there. Now the county has built a much bigger one for us."

That same year, Rosas recalled, she and other Woman's Club members pursued a post office in the same way, beginning by asking the postmaster in La Puente how to get started. After meetings and calls and finding a site, the local post office was established in Rowland Plaza.

And about that time, Rosas led the club to establish the annual Buckboard Days Parade and community celebration.

Finding sites for two fire stations was not that hard, she said. "There was a clear need and I just went around asking developers and property owners," she said. "The county agreed and it's just wonderful now what we have."

As the mother of a son and daughter who are now grown, Rosas was active in PTAs and helped launch local drives for two additional schools.

She is founder and chairman of the Rowland Heights Coordinating Council and chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Regional Planning Commission.

Rosas, who is embarrassed at calling attention to herself, has trouble explaining her work ethic.

"I do believe, as a young child I was always interested in helping someone else," she said. "It's just something that has been there all these years. Oh, I don't know--this is just me, and I like being myself.

"I just learned a long time ago that I could get things done. I try to do it in an amicable, quiet way, with respect for people around me. One thing just led to another."

She is delighted that it led to a park being named for her.

It is about a mile from her home, a place where families picnic and children from the neighboring Farjardo Elementary School play on a number of ball fields, courts and playground equipment. It is one of Rowland Heights' five community parks and has its own recreation building.

Rosas knows it well.

"I was mistress of ceremonies when it opened more than 10 years ago," she said. "Somebody just asked me to do that, so I did."

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