Martin ‘Mickey’ Rosen, 79; described as ‘Warrior Against Poverty’

Martin ‘Mickey’ Rosen

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Martin “Mickey” Rosen, who was described as a “Warrior Against Poverty” for his long career with the local anti-poverty agency, and who recently retired as executive director of the Mildred Simon Foundation, died Monday, April 1, 2013, of an apparent heart attack at his Creve Coeur home, family members said. He was 79. His death came as a shock to his family and many friends in the community. He had been a regular for many years at the JCC, where he had worked out three or four times a week and was considered to be in excellent health.

Mr. Rosen’s passing was just over two weeks before he was to receive a Distinguished Alumnus Award on April 17 from his alma mater, the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, in recognition of his lifetime of devotion to helping the less fortunate. His family members will accept the award on his behalf.

Of the many eloquent statements of tribute to Mr. Rosen during a service at Temple Israel, perhaps the most succinct was that of his 12-year-old grandson, Sam Rosen. “Grandpa could have used his great mind to become a very successful businessman. Instead he used it all his life to help other people,” said Sam, the son of Leo and Julie Rosen.

Mr. Rosen was born on Nov. 1, 1933 in St. Louis, the youngest of four children. His parents were Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. His father owned a small market near Union Station and later sold scrap metal. He died when Mr. Rosen was 3 years old. His mother worked in a sweatshop to earn a small living to feed her family with the children growing up in the depths of the Great Depression.


Mr. Rosen graduated from Soldan High School in 1952. He borrowed $1,000 from what is now the Scholar Shop for college expenses but ran out of money his first year at the University of Missouri-Columbia. During the Korean War, he volunteered to serve in the Army to earn enough funds and benefits to return to college. In the Army, Mr. Rosen was at first an office worker in Hawaii. He was later sent to Korea on a ship, but before it arrived in July 1953, the war was over, and the ship returned to Hawaii. Mr. Rosen earned an undergraduate degree in psychotherapy at Washington University, followed by a master’s degree in social work.

Mr. Rosen was married to the former Adrienne Gallop on Feb. 12, 1967. They were married for 46 years. He had been previously divorced and she had been widowed. Each had three children and later the couple had a daughter.

Mr. Rosen worked at the JCC before joining the staff of the Human Development Corporation in 1965, where he was a community organizer. Later in his career he became executive director of the anti-poverty agency, which provided millions of dollars for programs like Operation Head Start, the Job Corps and several programs operated by its St. Louis County branch.

When Mr. Rosen retired at HDC in November 2000, the City of St. Louis proclaimed it “Mickey Rosen Day.” The proclamation, which was read out by Temple Israel Rabbi Emeritus Mark Shook, who officiated at Mr. Rosen’s funeral, described him as a tireless “Warrior Against Poverty.” After his HDC career, Mr. Rosen held several other positions, including lecturer at the social work program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and as executive director of the philanthropy, the Mildred Simon Foundation, where he worked for 12 years until his recent retirement.

Mr. Rosen never became cynical about the capacity of people to make a difference in the community. During last year’s “Occupy Wall Street” movement, Mr. Rosen showed up at his monthly luncheon at the Mandarin Chinese Restaurant on Woodson Road with his “Gang of Five” friends sporting a brand-new “Occupy St. Louis” T-shirt. “Mickey, how many 79-year-olds are there in the Occupy St. Louis movement?” one of his friends asked.

In his eulogy at Mr. Rosen’s funeral, Rabbi Shook described Mickey Rosen as a “true lamed vovnik. one of the 36 righteous people, who according to Jewish tradition sustain the world through their acts of righteousness. Mickey Rosen is just such a tzaddik.”

Funeral services were held last Friday at Temple Israel, where Rabbi Shook officiated and several children and grandchildren offered words of tribute and remembrance. Burial was at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery on White Road. Survivors include his wife, Adrienne; five daughters, Julie Rosen of Albuquerque, N.M.; Michelle Mixon of Chesterfield; Valerie Elfenbaum of Chesterfield; Rachel Simonson of Fort Lee, N.J., and Marissa Rosen of Philadelphia; two sons, Leo Rosen of Ladue and Alex Rosen of Olympia, Wash.; a brother, Milt Rosen of Creve Coeur and nine grandchildren.

Memorial contributions preferred to Camp Sabra, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, Mo. 63146.