Rose Anna House Frutchey, 84, of Cataldo, ID, passed away on December 15, 2021 surrounded by her loving family at her beloved ranch in Cataldo, ID. Rose was born on November 14, 1937 in Rumford, ME, a daughter of the late Charles V. House and Helen (Linti) House. She was the first of four daughters to the family and started school at four years of age.
At 16 years old, Rose was a member of the 4H Club, when she captured a calf in the catching contest at the fair (the only girl to compete) and raised the calf to show at the judging at the fair the following year. Rose excelled at basketball in high school and was the captain of her team. She was also on the championship softball team and, over three seasons, her team completed 154 runs to the total of all opponents’ score of 9 runs.
While still in high school, (Stephens High School), the Oxford Paper Company, which made glossed paper for the National Geographic magazine, et al., offered Rose a job as a mathematician. Rose declined the job offer, since she had a scholarship to attend the University of Maine at Orono, ME.
Rose graduated from the University of Maine in the spring of 1959 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agronomy. She accepted an interim job with Pratt & Whitney aircraft reviewing literature on engines and air frames. Rose then volunteered with the International Voluntary Services (IVS) from August 1959 to late 1961, to serve as a schoolteacher at the Junior College outside of Vientiane, Laos, teaching science and English to Lao students studying to become teachers.
In the spring of 1960, there was a coup d’état in Vientiane. Some of Rose’s female students couldn’t evacuate the school compound to return to the safety of their parent’s homes, so Rose gathered the stranded students together in their dorm, piled mattresses on the floor, plus more coverings over them, until the shooting stopped two days later.
A few days after that, Rose, and all the other Americans, were evacuated to Bangkok, Thailand, where she stayed at the Presbyterian Guest House run by an American woman who was a Bataan Death March survivor in the Philippines during WWII.
Rather than waste time waiting in Bangkok to return to work in Laos, Rose chose to take her allotted vacation. Some of her classmates from the University of Maine were working for IVS in Vietnam, so Rose decided to visit there and see what they were doing. It was then that she met her future husband, Burr Frutchey, in Ban Me Thuot, at the Ekam crop and livestock station, in the highlands of Vietnam. Burr took Rose tiger hunting (along with two young Mennonite men from their clinic at the Mennonite run leprosarium) in the tropical jungle grasslands near M’Drak livestock station as a first date.
Upon leaving Laos, Rose boarded a French maritime vessel out of Southern Thailand which sailed to Marseilles, France via the Suez Canal, where Rose viewed the pyramids on camel-back. She then boarded a train destined for Italy, where she picked up her 125cc Vespa scooter. Staying in youth hostels, Rose toured Italy, but wound up in a hospital for a few days after a wreck. After her stint in the hospital, Rose continued on to France, where she worked on two French farms for several months. Then onto Spain and Germany, including going through the Brandenburg Gate into East Berlin. Next she traveled to Sweden, traveling up past the Arctic Circle and back down into Finland. While in Finland, Rose met her Finnish relatives from her mother’s side. One young man, Kalli, her cousin, took Rose throughout Finland on her scooter and met many other extended family members. After returning to Belgium, Rose sold her scooter and flew back to the United States, flying over the North Pole.
In 1963, Rose took a job with the University of Maine Extension Service, 4-H program, covering from Presque Isle (north) to Bar Harbor, where she enjoyed seafood all along the coast.
In 1964, Rose received a fellowship with the US Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., and she attended the University of Maryland where she received a Masters Degree in Human Development.
In June of 1965, Rose’s roommate at a new apartment complex in Lanham, MD, was a young black woman named Elizabeth. Rose smuggled Liz in as the first African American resident there. The apartment manager tried to object but backed off when Rose told them that she would notify the Fed’s.
On July 3, 1965, Rose wed Burr Frutchey at her parent’s farm in Rumford, ME. They took their honeymoon by canoe in Algonquin State Park in Ontario, Canada, flying up there in a rented Cessna 150 airplane.
The couple then went elk hunting in Idaho that fall, before flying back to Asia, arriving in Chiang Mai, Thailand in April of 1966. Rose and Burr would be flying frequently up to the Lao Burma borders in “STOL” aircraft (Rose had passed her private pilot’s license earlier in the year of 1966 after nearly being run over by Air Force One in Maryland).
April 27, 1966, Rose gave birth to her first child, Susan Anna in Chiang Mai, Thailand at McCormick Missionary Hospital. Shortly thereafter, Rose also took in a newborn Lisu baby boy whose mother had died in childbirth. She was responsible for his care until the age of 2, when he was returned to his native village. Dick and Marlene Mann, Protestant missionaries ministering to the Thai Karen tribes, asked Rose to accompany them and to give them tips regarding their agricultural projects with the tribes.
Burr had just returned from Burma border in his work with the Thai Border Patrol Police (Lahu and Lisu tribes) in time to take over with the kids. Rose was all packed up and ready to leave, except that she hadn’t been able to find a sarong, which is necessary to wear while showering under the bamboo half-pipe in the village square. So, Burr gave her his to use, not remembering that a man’s sarong only came up to the waist!
Rose walked with the Manns up into the foothills among the Karen villages and found that they were raising sheep but didn’t have a spinning wheel for the wool. Upon returning to Chiang Mai, Rose remembered visiting the pioneer Sturbridge Village in Connecticut, where they had old fashioned spinning wheels, among other pioneer equipment. Rose wrote to them, asking if they knew where she could purchase a spinning wheel to use with the Karens. In reply, the folks at Sturbridge Village shipped her back one, free of charge – The Karens made good use of it!
Rose filled in for American missionaries going on home leave to run their handicraft program with Meo (H’mong) and Yao hill tribes, expanding the program to employ some 1,000 hill tribe women in their embroidery and silver work, flying into the hill tribe villages via short takeoff and landing aircraft (STOL) with supplies for them to work on, then marketing the same.
Rose gave birth to her second child, Charles William, on July 5, 1967 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The day after Halloween, 1967, Rose helped nurse her wounded husband back to health; she then stayed on in Chiang Mai running the hill tribe handiwork program in 1968 after her husband had been transferred to Laos. The Queen Mother of Thailand, the Royal Patron of the Thai Border Patrol Police, later took this program under her wing. Burr extended his tour by 6 months to overlap with the work that his friend, Kirk, was doing, building the “secret” base and airfield with the Meo hill tribe in Laos. While he was gone, Rose undertook a contract job for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, conducting a survey among Thai farmers for the International Pha Muong Project.
This projects intent was to dam the Mekong River and provide electricity for Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and parts of Vietnam, as well as irrigate hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in Thailand. While interviewing the Thai farm families, the wives gathered with Rose in the evenings to find out how many children she had and how she kept from having more kids, as they commonly had a child every other year, with little access to birth control. Rose’s boss at the U.S.B.R. was Catholic and didn’t want Rose to talk or write about this, but she did it anyway.
The U.S.B.R. survey was to find out if the Thai would use the irrigation water if provided and what problems that they were having with small irrigation projects that they already had. As it turned out, the farmers experience was that after they planted vegetable crops and were promised a certain flow of irrigation water in the dry season, their canals often went dry since the water was diverted (for a fee) to friends of bureaucrats in charge. Consequently, their crops dried up and they had nothing to sell to repay their crop loans. This multi-billion dollar project was never built. After a short home leave to the States, Rose returned to Laos with her husband for another tour.
Early in 1969, the Phatet Lao (communist Guerillas) blew up the Royal Lao Army ammunition dump located just outside of Vientiane, Laos. Although the explosions continually rattled the windows of her house, Rose, knowing the lay of the land and exactly where the ammo dump was, realized that the village was not under attack per se, but that it was an enemy sapper unit that was destroying the ordinance of the Lao Army. Being conversant in the Lao language, she could assure everyone that they could just go back to bed, which she did with her two small children (plus one gestating) with her pistol strapped to her waist. Her husband, as usual, was up in the highlands at the “secret” hill tribe Meo Army headquarters with General Vang Pao.
On May 6, 1969, Rose gave birth to her third child, Eric Carl, in Bangkok, Thailand on her husband Burr’s birthday. In 1970, Rose was surprised to find a cobra in the screened-in children’s playroom, the door outside had been left ajar, just before letting the kids in to play. She quickly pushed a davenport against the wall, trapping the cobra in a corner until help could arrive. An Ex-IVSer with a long knife lashed to a pole quickly dispatched the deadly venomous snake. A cobra had bitten and killed a neighboring gardener just two weeks earlier.
It was a pleasant relief, therefore, in late 1970 that she boarded the S.S. President Wilson in Hong Kong with her family to set sail back to the United State after a decade in Southeast Asia. They traveled to Manila, Osaka and Hawaii, then under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The stars and stripes never looked so good!
In early 1971, Rose took a job as head of the United Way program in Spokane, WA for a year. In the summer of that year, Rose welcomed into her family Quint and Celia, her husband’s sister’s two children, while their mother was convalescing in Arizona. During the fall of 1971, Rose’s father and Burr’s father both passed away. In July, Rose and Burr took all five kids to their cabin on Lake Killbrennan in Montana for a fishing vacation. During this time Rose looked for ranches for sale in eastern Washington and north Idaho throughout 1972-73, finally finding the ranch they bought on Tamarack Ridge, along the Coeur d’Alene River in Cataldo, ID in July of 1973.
In 1974 or 1975, Rose, together with Virginia, another farm wife from the Palouse area, flew east to Washington, D.C. to join the farmers demonstrating there. Their objective was to have a meeting with the Secretary of Agriculture; however, the front doors of the USDA headquarters office had been chained shut. However, Rose and Virginia discovered a side door that was still unlocked. They told the nearest group of farmers, who were from Texas, about the opportunity and they all filed inside only to discover that the Secretary of Agriculture had fled out of a window on the other side of the building. The group of farmers was subsequently led upstairs by some staff to a meeting room, where they were to wait for an audience by someone with authority. The Texas farmers prayed while Rose, who at this point had become apprehensive, slipped out into the hallway and discovered that several doors down was the office of an Ex-IVSer, Verle, who she had worked with. She entrusted him to keep her purse, not knowing what might happen. None of the farmers were arrested or threatened but were given the run around and eventually left. Later that night, Rose decided to look up her old roommate, Elizabeth, who lived in the D.C. inner city. Rose and Virginia hired a cab to go to Elizabeth’s house, but before they got there, their cab driver and another cab driver got into a fight in the middle of the street. The girls abandoned their cab and continued on foot, walking down to Elizabeth’s house in the dark. After visiting her friend, they attempted to call a taxi to pick them up, but no company would dispatch a car to that area. They ended up walking out in the dark to an area the cab company would go to.
In 1976, while the ranch was being renovated, Rose accepted a job at Kaiser Aluminum in Trentwood, WA, to ensure that there was enough income for her children to afford to go to college. She continued to work as a Journeyman Electrician until 1988, when her youngest son, Eric, received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She then ranched full time with her husband growing grass seed, hay, and raising cattle.
During this time, Rose was elected as Supervisor on the Kootenai/Shoshone Soil and Water Conservation Board, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service. Rose also served on the Farm Bureau Federal Water Commission and formed a local group of landowners who owned land along the Coeur d’Alene River, called “Save Our River Environment” to advocate for more protection of the river banks from erosion, and consequent contamination of the river and Lake Coeur d’Alene.
In 2008, Rose and Burr sold their cow herd and semi-retired; they then traveled to Belize, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Alaska.
Rose is preceded in death by her parents, Charles and Helen; her oldest son, Charles (Chuck); a sister, Judy; and a niece, Celia.
Survivors include her loving husband of 56 years, Burr Frutchey, of the family in ranch in Cataldo, ID; a daughter, Susan Anna Servin of Dallas, TX; a son, Eric Frutchey of Cataldo, ID; two sisters, Mildred Capolla of New York and Laurel Butler of Bangor, ME; 6 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren; as well as several nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Rose’s life will be held and announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, her family has requested that donations may be made in her memory to the Hospice of North Idaho, 2290 W. Prairie Ave., Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815
You may share your stories and memories of Rose, as well as messages of condolence to her family, by visiting www.shoshonefuneralservice.com. Shoshone Funeral Services, Kellogg, is assisting the Frutchey family with arrangements.
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