June 1, 2007

Winsted grandparents understand grandson's grief

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

It has been six years since Leonard and Irene Rozeske of Winsted learned that their son Bob suffered a fatal heart attack.

The tears still come easily as Leonard and Irene talk about the shock of hearing the news about their son for the first time. But the story they want to share is the succcess Bob’s son, Thomas has made since then.

A shopping trip Thomas made with his father and younger sister, Madeline, July 6, 2001, ended with unexpected tragedy that changed their lives forever. The three of them had set out that day to find the perfect birthday present for their mother.

They were in a store parking lot getting ready to leave.

“All of a sudden, Bob grabbed his chest and the car was going forward in the parking lot,” Irene said. “Madeline shut the car off and Thomas turned the steering wheel so the car wouldn’t hit a post.”

“Just think if they had been on the road. We could have lost all of them,” Irene said.

Thomas entered seventh grade that fall. He struggled with the loss of his father.

“We had kind of a rough time after that. There was no leading up to it or anything,” Thomas said.

“There were a lot of times that I just didn’t know what to do anymore,” he said.

But instead of giving up, Thomas called on his support system. Family members and friends helped him deal with the loss, while still keeping up with his studies.

After four years of high school his school counselor in Eau Claire, Jane Adlercorning, calls him resilient. “He just has a very mature outlook. Some of the things in his past that kids his age might use as a crutch, he uses as a stepping stone to greater things,” Adlercorning said.

As a freshman, Rozeske was placed in the school’s program for learning-disabled students. Today, he no longer needs those services. “He found strategies that worked and was able to overcome that,” Adlercorning said. “He really pushes himself and has taken advanced placement and other really quite rigourous courses.”

Thomas spent four years on the cross country, and swimming and diving teams. He also played the French horn in band and helped start an ultimate Frisbee club. This year, Rozeske joined student council and serves as the senior class co-president.

Leonard and Irene give a lot of credit to Thomas’ mother, Pat (Wroge) Rozeske, originally from Lester Prairie, and her mother, Betty Wroge, for being part of Thomas’ support group.

Last weekend, Thomas graduated from high school with plans to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth and major in psychology.

Leonard and Irene have had their share of tragedy

Bob’s death was the second time Leonard and Irene had received unexpected and tragic news. The Rozeskes lost their son, Gary, in 1969, in a work-related accident, when he was only 19 years old.

Leonard recalls the morning Gary left for work just like it was yesterday. Gary had asked Leonard if he should stay home and help pick corn or if he should go to work.

“I told him, ‘It is up to you. You are going to college and need the extra bucks, so if you want to go to work go ahead.’ He went to work and never came back,” Leonard said.

Like their grandson, Leonard and Irene have managed to become resilient, too.

“You have to keep busy,” Leonard said. “We have had a good marriage outside of losing our two boys. We have a wonderful family, and wonderful neighbors and friends.”

They have been married for 58 years.

Leonard and Irene have two other sons. John is married to Darla and lives in Mankato. Jim is married to Lori and they live in Waverly with their two sons, Adam and Jackson.

Some of the information for this article was taken from the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

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