Rose Ann Nowak, a former resident of Port Townsend and Quilcene, died at her current home in Sequim, Washington, on March 6, 2021. Those who loved her agree that she was a woman who packed a lot of living into her 89 years.
She treasured her family and friends, loved laughing out loud at a good joke, appreciated nature’s beauty, and aspired to learn something new every day.
Rose Ann was born to Allison Hughes Sprecher and Mary Potter Sprecher in Sedalia, Missouri, on March 5, 1932. She and her older sister, Mary Lee, didn’t have the easiest of childhoods, but Rose Ann had fond memories of her maternal grandparents, Grant and Phila Potter, including how her grandpa would lift her onto a giant Clydesdale horse, and how he split watermelons for the girls in the summertime. After seeing the film “The Wizard of Oz” as a child, when a tornado approached, she remembered her grandmother shouting to get in the root cellar. Young Rose Ann thought to herself, “I thought we were going to Oz.”
She also told childhood stories that featured her Uncle Gordon and Aunt Sue Potter, whom she adored. One wintry night, Uncle Gordon showed her magic when he woke her to go outside and look at a blanket of crystalline hoar frost that had created a picture-perfect fairy land.
The family moved to San Diego, California, in the late 1940s, where Rose Ann graduated from Stephen Watts Kearny High School in 1950. She met Ronald Everett Nowak when her sister Mary Lee was dating Ron’s best friend, Charlie Marrs. Ron and Rose Ann were married on Aug. 18, 1951 in Walnut Creek, California, where the temperature soared to nearly 100 degrees.
They made their first home in Concord, California. Rose Ann was a homemaker in their early marriage and Ron worked for the companies Rucker and U.S. Steel in the Bay Area. While living in California, the couple had three children, Rob, Jody and John.
In 1962, Ron accepted a job at Crown Zellerbach in Port Townsend, Washington, and after the family relocated, they set to work restoring a derelict, three-story Victorian house, “The Big Pink.” She wrote about their renovation adventure in a piece published in House Beautiful.
The family grew when son George was born in 1964, and Paul in 1966.
Rose Ann was a whiz at entertaining, loving all of its facets, from setting an elegant table in her Victorian dining room, to arranging flowers, to cooking fabulous meals and engaging in spirited conversation with her guests. She hosted a sit-down dinner for 37 people when her youngest, Paul, was just 2½ months old.
She loved to tell another favorite story, about when the late Judge A.C. Grady took her to see President Gerald Ford. In the receiving line at the event, the President said, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Elizabeth Taylor?”
Rose Ann appreciated beauty her entire life and made a point of creating it and surrounding herself with it. A family friend who later became an accomplished artist remarked that she hadn’t known beauty until she was exposed to it in Rose Ann’s home.
In Port Townsend, Rose Ann actively supported Mary Johnson’s vision for the Summer School of the Arts, and the arts organization that succeeded it, Centrum. She also served for a number of years on the Port Townsend School Board in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and had the distinct honor of awarding daughter Jody and family friend Brian Murphy their diplomas.
Rose Ann’s jobs in Port Townsend ran the gamut, from selling real estate, to cooking at the Don’s Pharmacy soda fountain, to working in the Jefferson County Public Works office, to catering private parties and events.
She loved nature, especially flowers and animals. Throughout their married lives, but particularly when they lived along the Big Quilcene River, both Rose Ann and Ron derived great pleasure from watching the local wildlife and feeding squirrels and birds. Rose Ann had a special affinity for crows. Prior to Ron’s death in 2015, the couple moved to Sequim and continued to enjoy the natural world.
Theirs was a 64-year love affair. They wrote tender notes to each other, and he would bring her bouquets, sometimes of mountain wildflowers he had picked while hiking in the Olympics.
She greatly respected him. “He was an amazing man. I was very lucky to have him, and he was lucky to have me,” she said.
In recent years, Rose Ann continued to live in Sequim with her beloved cat. She enjoyed visits from friends and family, making her daily rounds in the community, reading, chuckling at emailed jokes, and tending her colorful garden.
“I have not had a dull life,” Rose Ann said. Far from it. It was robust, well-lived, and brimming with creativity, laughter and love.
Rose Ann is survived by sons Rob, John (Lynn) and George Nowak (Heidi Agle) of Port Townsend, and Paul Nowak (Staci) of Enumclaw, Washington; daughter Jody Hata; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life will be planned at a later date when pandemic limitations are lifted. Memorials may be made in Rose Ann’s name to Center Valley Animal Rescue, 11900 Center Valley Road, Quilcene, WA 98376.