It’s almost as easy to list what Shirley S. Rose isn’t involved with in Vincennes, as opposed to what she is.
A native of the city, who in retirement lives in the Mentor Street home that she grew up in, Rose is in her fifth term as a member of the Vincennes City Council. She serves on both the tourism and budget and finance committees for the City Council and is its representative on the Knox County Development Council.
All of that is only the beginning, though. Among many other things, she’s the impetus behind the Vincennes Historic Farmer’s Market, serves as President of the Grouseland Foundation and is a member for the Advisory Council for Generations.
“If I were describing Shirley, I’d say she does a lot of things behind the scenes that nobody sees,” said Marc McNeece, president of the Knox County Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of the time she’s right out front. But she does a number of things to improve our community daily through hard work.”
McNeece adds that one of Rose’s specialties is mobilizing a group of volunteers.
“Her ability to recruit people is as important as anything,” he said. “When something needs to be done, you have to be able to find the people to do the job. She’s tremendous when it comes to that.”
Duane Chattin, who has for years served on the City Council with Rose, is in complete agreement.
“For years she’s been a driving force behind ensuring that Vincennes is known for being Indiana’s First City and leading a quality of life,” said Chattin. “We’ve looked to her for leadership, time and time again.”
Rose retired years ago, after working at First American, German American and First Federal banks.
She says she’s “at least as busy” now, though, with all of her civic involvement.
“I feel this is what I’m supposed to do,” said the Vincennes Lincoln graduate. “I think everybody feels that way about something in life, and mine is about serving the community.”
Rose declined to disclose her actual age but tells folks she’s a “cheerful” 39 years old. Over the course of time, she’s earned a reputation for getting things done. Once that happened, more and more was asked of her.
“They say if you’re involved in something, and you’re successful, they want you for another project and then another one after that,” she said with a chuckle. “Then when they find out you’re retired, they want to take it even further.”
Rose comes by her service naturally. She was born Sharon Carie, and her family “has been here since 1763.” The Carie family, Rose said, has long been known for its civic-mindedness.
Her deceased husband, Don, was also community-minded and had a brother, Bill, who was a three-term mayor in Vincennes from 1980 through 1992.
Communication, Rose has found, is vital if any kind of civic effort is going to be successful.
“That’s the most important thing you need to make everything work,” she said. “You have to be out in the open about it, too. It can’t be a secret. You have to get everybody involved and you have to talk about it openly. A lot of things go on that the (city) council doesn’t know about, but it seems like it always ends up at the council and we have to vote on it. It’s hard to do when we’re not in on it from the beginning.”
Of all the contributions she’s made, Rose is perhaps most proud of what was accomplished with the Knox County Relay for Life in the 1990s. She served as chairman for the event for 10 years.
“One year we raised $165,000. That was big money back then,” she said. “We raised the 10th-most money in the nation, per capita.”
Likewise, she’s proud of her work with the role in developing the combined Knox County Chamber of Commerce and Northwest Territory Art Guild Gallery building in the 300 block of Main Street.
Both the chamber and the art gallery were paying hefty monthly fees for rent. Rose’s proposal was to move both into one building, and with the help of others procured funding for the project through the Urban Enterprise Zone.
“It was the proper thing to do because we’d be saving money all around,” she said. “Now, neither of them have to pay rent because the building’s all paid for. They just have to pay for electricity and things like that.”
Rose’s contributions have not gone unnoticed. In 2005, she was the recipient of the Walter A. Davis Award, presented annually by the Vincennes University Alumni Association. The prestigious award honors a VU alumnus or resident of the area “in recognition of their outstanding service and impact to VU and the community.”
More recently, a “pocket park” in the 400 block of Main Street was named “Shirley’s Pocket Park” in her honor. It was dedicated in May 2015.
The project includes public restrooms, flowers and plants, an antique clock and benches for visitors to take a load off.
Several downtown merchants worked with Rose and others to procure money to turn a site that featured three dilapidated buildings into a thing of beauty.
“It’s a nice little park,” Rose said. “We worked for two or three years trying to buy the property because it was locked up in a trust. Finally, we got it. Three buildings came down and the pocket park was built.”
Rose is considering running for another term on the City Council in two years, and she’s got plans for a lot of things.
But she says, it’s time to slow down a little. She’s to the point, she says, where she schedules “down time.”
“There comes a time when you have to rest, of course,” she said. “Usually, the weekends are the time for me to do that.”
That’s unless something comes up at the Farmer’s Market, or with the City Council or the homecoming committee or the DAR. Then Shirley Rose will answer the bell for Vincennes. She always has and she always will.
The Rose File
Member, Vincennes Lincoln High School homecoming committee
Member, Vincennes City Council since 2000 under mayors Terry Mooney, Al Baldwin and Joe Yochum
Chairman, Vincennes City Council Tourism Committee
Member, Vincennes City Council Budget and Finance Committee
Past Vincennes City Council President pro temp
Vincennes City Council representative to Knox County Development Council
Executive Officer, Vincennes Area Builders Association
Director for Alliance, Vincennes Historic Farmer’s Market
Treasurer, Urban Enterprise Zone
Was involved with the creation of the Vincennes Main Street Pocket Park, known as Shirley’s Pocket Park
Was involved with the development of the Knox County Chamber and Northwest Art Museum building
President, Grouseland Foundation
Member of Advisory Council, Generations
Past president, member, Beta Sigma Phi Xi Delta Chapter
Member, Daughters of the American Revolution
Past member, Vincennes Central Business District Board
Past chairman, Knox County Relay for Life
Help to establish Annual Knox County Craft Show Festival
By Bill Richardson