In Memory

Lois Rose


Lois Rose, sister to Jay and Naomi, passed away in the early 1980s. She was a computer pioneer, touring the country to explain systems principles to programmers, an artist, and a musician. She is much missed.


An Appreciation
with additional photos

by Naomi Rose February 2007

My parents were 40 when I was born, my brother 10 and my sister 15. And this was towards the end of the time when teen girls were encouraged to prepare for being a wife and mother. Add to that the fact that my mother, as good a mom as she was, was an emotional cold fish, and my sister ended up taking care of me more than half the time for at least my first 3 years until she went off to Brandeis to become a Beatnik. Actually she started of as an art major, (I have some of her paintings hanging in my house, unfortunately, there's too much stuff in front of one of them) but changed majors several times before graduating.

After she moved out, she visited almost every weekend. She taught me to play guitar, helped me with homework, taught me beauty tips (like using my head as one big roller to get my wavy hair straight), taught me Backgammon and Go and other games. Here we are together in 1968 (or thereabouts)

I always looked up to her, and as I got older (into my teens) I more and more wanted to emulate her. She started with AT&T as an oversees operator, eventually become a very successful System Analyst. She then moved to a company that specialized in helping other companies with their fledging computer departments. They sent her all over the country, teaching, lecturing, seminaring (yes, it's a word, because I say so)

During one of these trips in '77 or '78, she was in the hotel restaurant one morning, having trouble getting the waitress' attention. Finally the gal came over and apologized, stating that the gentlemen at another table were in a hurry to get to a seminar's key note speaker. My sister fixed eyes with the waitress and said "did it ever occur to you that maybe I'm the keynote speaker?" Her meal was on the house.

She was also very involved with Sweet Adelines, even directing a small chorus for a year or two.

In 1976, she had a melanoma removed from her upper back. She'd been a sun bunny most of her life, even chipping in with some college friends to rent a house in the Hamptons for a few summers (I was never invited, tho ) and this was the price. The doc told her that they had to take out a lot of lymph nodes but that the outermost ones were clean. He also suggested, but did not insist, that she do follow up radiation and chemo. She declined because she didn't want it to interfere with her upcoming trip to Europe.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 1979. I was already home from school for the weekend, and she called before leaving her place. She said she'd been all kinds of nauseous with vicious headaches lately but had it under control and here was the route she was taking, in case she didn't show up in a reasonable amount of time, to come look for her, because she'd be on the side of the road somewhere, puking.

She showed up not too late, looking a little worse for wear; she'd thrown up in the car, but managed to clean up and felt better, so she continued on to us. Friday that weekend, mom took her to the doc to try to find out what was wrong. He examined her, and looked into her eye*. He didn't like what he saw and told her to see her own doctor on Monday. The rest of the weekend was uneventful. She slept thru her appointment on Monday, but saw the doc on Tuesday - he immediately sent her to the oncologist. The same melanoma had found its way to her brain. They took it out and she moved in with us to be near an excellent hospital for the follow up radiation and chemo. The prognosis was fair to good, depending on how she responded to the chemo. But over the next year, little tumors kept popping up all over the place. most were removed, but finally, a rather large one in her brain was declared inoperable, so all we could do was wait. Between the tumor messing with her motor skills and speech centers, and the chemo making her very ill and cranky, it was a wearying year. And I did not handle it well at all. I was only 22, basically fresh out of college and working for my dad. It was hard to watch my sister, whom I looked to as a second mother, deteriorate like that. When she left us in March'81, I was devistated. It changed me and I started acting out and behaving in very destructive ways. I couldn't wait to move out of my parents' house. I didn't blame them, I blamed the doc from 1976 who did not require the follow up treatment. But I couldn't live with them anymore because they had changed, having lost their first born. I eventually got therapy and snapped out of it to be who I am today, but that experience will always be with me. Not a day goes by that I don't think of her or miss her.


* I find it amazing that doctors can tell so much just by looking at the back of the eye.

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10/01/11 09:30 PM #1    

Andrew Vlady

The Excellent Adventures of Frank, Lois ‘n Andy

by Andrew Vlady


Thirty years ago, when the organizing committee of our 20th Anniversary Reunion was in the process of locating fellow students, I informed them that Frank McCall had been deceased for quite some time. He died young, not many years after high school graduation, though I don’t recall now what happened to him or how I knew it.

When I attended our reunion a few months later, in June of 1981, I was deeply saddened to learn that Lois Rose had recently passed away. I thought about the singular friendships I had enjoyed with Frank and Lois long before high school. I began to reflect often on what it meant for me to be the sole survivor of a unique triumvirate composed of Frank, Lois and myself. Other than the sense of awe and gratitude that I am still here to experience the beauty and heartache of life, I still don’t have the answer. But I do have words to tell the story of how my life intersected and was changed by these two childhood friends, a small story that does not do justice to the arc of their lives, but only expresses something of their significance in my life.


Surely everyone from the graduating class of 1961 remembers Frank McCall. His watercolor paintings were constantly on display in the corridors outside the art rooms at the North East corner of the second floor of our Alma Mater. His subject matter was vintage wooden houses with wrap around porches and big oak or elm trees in front; numerous homes of this style on Arrandale Avenue have recently undergone restoration.

I would always stop to closely study Frank’s latest works. They were superb! His artistic growth was astounding. Frank’s subject matter was never figural but rather, architecture and landscapes. And as any watercolorist knows, it is the fluidity of the paint itself that is the foremost concern: the way it flows over the paper and the patterns and textures it forms when it dries. The subject matter of watercolor is always organic. It is a difficult medium at any age, and Frank, going on 18, was already a watercolor master.

While I kept abreast of Frank’s artistic virtuosity I had little contact with him during high school. But years earlier, in Miss Reynold’s fourth grade class at Arrandale, Frank and I were best of friends. Every day after school we would go alternately to his house or mine. We would run most of the way and after a snack we would make models and sculptures from balsa wood and then draw, sometimes elaborating one drawing together while other times making separate drawings with related themes.

The McCall’s lived on Appletree Lane in the Old Village. I never knew Mr. McCall’s line of work, but he donned worker’s clothes and carried a lunch box. He probably worked a night shift, as he was always home in the afternoons when Mrs. McCall would prepare his midnight lunch and pour coffee into his thermos.

Frank’s older brother Dan began making hand painted signs for the local stores around the time I knew them, and in the years that followed there was hardly a store in Great Neck, Manhasset or Port Washington —to name a few towns in his domain— that did not have the recognizable white paper and hand lettered signs in their windows with the familiar “McCall Signs” in small proud letters at the bottom. The McCalls had the exterior look of a working class family —an oddity in Great Neck— yet in their warm home one could feel a powerful intellectual energy passing through the members of a close-knit family.

What attracted Frank and I to each other were our worlds of fantasy that soon merged into one. Every morning in class we looked forward to recess. While most of the classmates ran out to the North East corner of the playground to play soccer baseball, Frank and I ran with equal speed to the far South West corner near the monkey bars where we each took an imaginary matchbox from our pockets and carefully lifted out a make-believe flea.

Gently placing the tiny creatures on the ground we would recite some esoteric but magical words and instantly shrink ourselves to such size that I could mount my trained Flea-a-bee and Frank his trusty Flea-a-ble. In a flash we were off together on the most wonderful adventures. At the end of the recess period we would dismount our faithful beasts, say the magical words backwards, return to normal size, put the tired little creatures safely back in their matchboxes and return to class to devote part of our attention to the “three Rs”. In the classroom or outside of school we never mentioned our secret adventures.

Summer vacation came and we went our separate ways. In the fall, we were delighted to discover that we were together in Miss Maltby’s fifth grade class. At the first recess of the new school year we were back in our micro saddles and off on a fresh new adventure. How happy we felt to have the security of an entire academic year ahead of us, free to enter our shared private world every morning as we galloped across our end of the playground. But suddenly everything changed, never to return again to what had been a secret world of two.

We were standing in our corner of the playground, refreshing our panting six-legged friends, when off in the distance a cloud of dust appeared. Something was emerging mirage-like as it came closer and closer. Soon, to our astonishment, we could discern a creature of the genus pulex and as it came closer we could see it was indeed a pulex irritans galloping towards us with a most formidable rider atop. As they came closer one word filled the mutual thought cloud above our heads: GASP!!!  The rider was a girl! She dismounted confidently and introduced us to Flea-a-by, her sprightly female flea. It was Lois!


Lois Rose did not, on the surface, look the part of someone who could intuit so perceptively the hermetic goings-on in the South West corner of the schoolyard. A plump girl with short curly light brown hair and a round face, Lois had intense, observing eyes and an air of confidence about her. But, how she learned to shrink herself to flea-riding size we could not imagine. We guarded our spell-casting words as any serious sorcerer guards a sacred oath. Had she somehow gotten it out of us by force or cunning, I don’t suppose we would have accepted her, but as she had figured it out for herself we let her ride with us that day. The next day she was back, and the next, and the next.

In the classroom Lois was better able than Frank or I to conceal her secret identity from the others. Frank and I lived more comfortably in our fantasy world and were never more then half present in the classroom while Lois was able to bridge the two worlds with greater ease, grasping the tutorials in their entirety. She was amongst the brightest students in all subjects. She was quick to raise her hand and answer with authoritative eloquence. On the other hand, Frank and I used ridicule and satire as a way of rationalizing not paying attention to academic studies.

Needless to say, the nature of our adventures out on the playground changed: with Lois came discipline. She had little tolerance for our formless exploits with no recognizable beginning or goal. Lois brought consistency and accountability to our every quest and she made them better. At first we were reluctant to include her, as in the old cowboy movies, or on the ship in King Kong: nobody wants a girl around.  But after a while she grew on us, and our adventures gained new depth, meaning and value.

In the classroom Lois was first in all subjects, save for draughtmanship where she and Frank tied for second place while I enjoyed a clear lead. When it came to drawing I was competitive and more then just a wee bit uneasy with anybody who threatened my admired place. Lois was different; she knew that through interchange we would both benefit. She would make time every school day to show me her drawings and ask my advice.

Miss Maltby was a fine teacher and kept a keen eye on her students. During that year we studied Mexico with various topics delegated to different committees composed of three or four students. She appointed Lois, Frank and me to the art committee and assigned us the challenge of making a mural painting of Mexican folklore, about 6 feet wide by 4 feet high. The three of us relished the idea and, with no need of help from Miss Maltby, we divided the labor in a way that would render the best results: I took charge of the overall design as well as the male figures; Lois handled the female figures; Frank took charge of the landscape and buildings. In harmonious collaboration the three of us fitted together the fore, mid and background figures into Frank’s décor. Frank charted the canals of Xochimilco in perspective and I drew in the flower boats. Suggestions flowed freely and were well taken. We made a good team.

The finished mural would have passed as an exemplary work of seventh graders. Frank’s work had the advantage of accuracy. Lois’s and my figures attracted the most attention yet they were highly inaccurate, Spanish Flamenco dancers with nothing Mexican about them. After the mural project was completed, when recess time came around, the three of us would run out to the North East corner of the playground and play soccer baseball with the other classmates.  The fantastical world of fleas had been imperceptively but definitively overtaken by our gratifying engagement with creativity and collaborative effort.

Frank and Lois were two very different people who at a very young age taught me so much about artistic invention and teamwork, two assets that became the essential cornerstones of my professional career. I owe them both so much: Frank McCall who befriended me in the critical activity of childhood play —he was truly my playmate in the most important sense of the word; Lois Rose, who took me by the reigns and led me outward from my introverted world of fantasy into the larger world of imagination.

I hope this small remembrance of Frank and Lois may help to keep their memories alive for others and perhaps nudge new memories to surface, of those whose transient presence in our lives have been inscribed seemingly unremarkably but more deeply than any of us might have suspected.


05/22/14 06:45 PM #2    

Susan Talent (Hellerman)

What a lovely and thoughtful reminiscence.

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