BOOKS Rozsa gave much back to Cal­gary

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - CATHER­INE FORD

The per­ti­nent facts of Lola May Estes Rozsa’s long life are eas­ily dis­cov­ered read­ing her obituary, pub­lished in the Cal­gary Her­ald when she died at 92 in April of 2012.

But the real woman be­hind those facts — her voice and her per­son­al­ity — lives on in this beau­ti­ful book, a paean to her mem­ory. This is the sixth in the Univer­sity of Cal­gary’s The West se­ries, edited by Aritha van Herk, a se­ries that uses cre­ative non­fic­tion, as writ­ten on the fron­tispiece: “that ex­plores our sense of place in the West — how we de­fine our­selves as Western­ers and what im­pact we have on the world around us.”

It does de­serve the “beau­ti­ful” la­bel, both for the qual­ity of the print­ing, the heavy stock used and, of course, by the voice con­tained within the pages. My Name is Lola may have been writ­ten by Susie Sparks, but the voice is all Lola, all the way through. And what a voice it is: strong, de­ter­mined, Tex­as­lusty and forth­right. Here is the life story of one of this city’s cul­tural icons, one of Cal­gary’s civic bene­fac­tors and whose con­tri­bu­tion to the life of this city with her hus­band, Ted Rozsa (who died in 2006), cov­ers the gamut from the arts to mu­sic to golf.

Wher­ever they saw a need, they jumped in. Lola says the best les­son she ever learned from her mother was that wher­ever they were (Lola was the youngest of seven chil­dren) the way to make friends quickly was to be­come in­volved “in a help­ful way in what­ever com­mu­nity we hap­pened to land. Quite frankly, that may have been the best life les­son I ever learned.” And be­come in­volved, she did. By the time Lola and Ted were mar­ried, she was used to mov­ing — I lost count of the num­ber of times her Pres­by­te­rian preacher fa­ther was re­as­signed to var­i­ous small towns. So their peri­patetic life as Ted was trans­ferred from town to town — “good thing I was raised by an itin­er­ant preacher,” she says — wasn’t a shock to her.

She had no idea where Cal­gary was and she writes: “They had some kind of rodeo ev­ery year. It sounded pretty rough.

“We were go­ing to have to stay at some rail­road ho­tel called the Pal­liser. I just hoped it was clean and had hot wa­ter.” Yes, I laughed out loud when I read that, but I’d also just read the story of how she lived for a year with a baby in dia- pers and no hot wa­ter.

And when they got here, Lola re­mem­bered her mother’s ad­vice and threw her­self into the life of this com­mu­nity. Be­cause of her and women like her, be­cause of their vol­un­teerism, Cal­gary has mu­sic and art and cul­tural cen­tres. The U of C has a mu­si­cal per­for­mance cen­tre be­cause Lola saw mu­sic stu­dents prac­tic­ing their in­stru­ments in the stair­wells. She started the Benny the Book­worm sale to raise money for the CPO.

Along the way, Ted left Shell and started his own com­pany, Fron­tier Geo­phys­i­cal, which gave a newly minted geo­physi­cist his first job af­ter univer­sity. Why should this mat­ter? Be­cause it is an ex­am­ple of how in­tri­cately in­ter­twined all of our lives are. That new grad­u­ate was Tom Ford, my un­cle.

Lola’s story is Cal­gary’s story: a city cob­bled to­gether by pioneers who ar­rived in var­i­ous waves from around the world. (The Rozsas were part of what was in­del­i­cately termed the “Amer­i­can invasion” of 1949, sent north to cash in on the dis­cov­ery of oil. She says: “It was made clear in so many ways that so many peo­ple thought that, once we were through pil­lag­ing their re­sources, we’d take the money and run.”) Ob­vi­ously, they didn’t cut and run; they stayed to help build this city, aided by men and women who be­lieved as the Rozsas did — that giv­ing back was the best way to re­ceive. “What a won­der­ful ad­ven­ture we’ve had; what rich bless­ings we have re­ceived.”

The book is re­plete with fam­ily pho­tos and the one of Lola in a Min­nie Mouse hat at her great­grand­child’s birth­day party is laugh-out-loud charm­ing.

This book would be a won­der­ful sea­sonal present for any civic his­to­rian. It might even have some life lessons for a gen­er­a­tion who fails to see the value in phi­lan­thropy. My Name Is Lola will change their minds.


Cal­gary Her­ald/Files

Lola Rozsa, left, rep­re­sents her hus­band Ted dur­ing his post­hu­mous in­duc­tion into the Cal­gary Busi­ness Hall of Fame in 2010.

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