If you’re looking for a new role model for aging gracefully, look no further than Rose Allen Kraft ’40. She’s my new heroine. When I arrived at her Italianate home at the end of Pilkington Road in Corvallis, a brief sprinkle of rain had just freshened the grass, the sun was darting through the oaks, and Rose was in her yard picking a big bunch of daffodils. Dressed in a smart brown suit for our lunch date, Rose greeted me with a big wave and firm hug. “Isn’t this gorgeous?” she gestured at her 30 acres. “I thrive on living in the green, ‘the first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold'” she quoted, referring to the work of Robert Frost. “It’s what keeps me going.” That, and a demanding schedule volunteering in the community, connecting with family and friends, and traveling the globe, most often to Afghanistan, Africa, and Russia.
In memory of the worldwide adventures she and Walter enjoyed in their 61 years of marriage, Rose established the endowed Rose and Walter Kraft International Travel Fund for students and faculty. “Once I got over being ethnocentric, I discovered there is great wisdom among the people of the world,” says Rose, whose endowment will enable others to make the same discovery.
Rose’s spirit, drive, and contentment come from life lessons learned at her mother’s side, which she freely shares, jumping from one decade to another, telling the poignant story of her husband Walter’s passing in 2003 just after their godchildren kissed him goodbye, then reminiscing about canning salmon, peaches, and raspberries (that never floated to the top!) on the farm she grew up on in Tumalo, Oregon, with her parents and three brothers. “We were first-generation farmers, and I never knew we were poor. We always knew what we had. I never really knew what we didn’t have.” She describes 4-H as her “window to the world,” where she found friends, learned to sew, preserve food, and raise animals, winning state and national awards. In the fall of 1935, Rose, a proud recipient of the Deschutes County Union Pacific Railroad Scholarship, arrived at OSU to study home economics.
Rose met Walter Kraft in her sophomore year, and they married in 1942, starting a lifetime of travel — to more than 65 countries during summers and sabbaticals and a 6,000-mile journey in a VW bus through Afghanistan in the late ’60s. Rose received her master’s in nutrition at Cal Berkeley, and after the war, their OSU roots brought them back to Corvallis. Walter was the chair of OSU’s Modern Languages Department and Rose taught middle and high school until they both retired in 1982. “We were a good team, fulfilling our dream together,” she recalls. That dream included children they took under their wing who needed loving parents.
Rose was teaching at Corvallis High School when she met 14-year-old Edna Pemberton from the Children’s Farm Home. “She was just a scared kid who needed love, a home, and someone to correct and forgive her,” says Rose. Edna went to college, married, has two college-educated children, and is a teacher. “Then there’s my Chinese daughter, Tong Li, an exchange student who came for three days, stayed for three years, and found a spot in our lives forever,” says Rose warmly. Tong’s biggest struggle was learning to speak English so in the evenings, Rose read the book of Matthew to her so she could hear the language. Today, Tong Li Carlson is a software engineer living in Cupertino, California. And then there is Sadir Ahmad, whom Walter and Rose met in Afghanistan in 1968 when she was teaching at Nangrahar University in Jalalabad on a Fulbright. Ahmad was 18, his mother had died when he was two, and Rose and Walter brought him to the U.S. in 1971 to live with them. Today, he is a successful dental technician in Dallas, Texas. “He never asked for a thing,” recalls Rose, but he received love and support, and because he never knew when he was born, Rose gave him her birthday, January 22nd.
Rose and Walter followed their passions in retirement — Walter wrote and played the piano for her every day. Rose eagerly jumped into community activities as a founding member of the hospital auxiliary, board member, and active volunteer at Good Samaritan — activities she keeps up today along with a busy social schedule. Admittedly struck by wanderlust, at 91 Rose is still always planning her next trip. She had just returned from two weeks in Cabo San Lucas and was talking about her upcoming 19-day National Geographic tour on the trans-Siberian railroad from Vladivostok to Moscow. She’ll travel with Carol Muster ’67 ’70, who can provide “a young arm and good eyes when I need them,” she chuckles. “Mother and father always taught me to dream…to create a vision of what I wanted in life.” Advice well taken, I thought as the check came for lunch and Rose snapped it up. “I’m working on my air miles,” she winked.