Saturday, November 9, 2002

Laying wreath in D.C.


Bowler honoring veterans

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Remember the veterans.

Tootie Pierson used to say that whenever her bowling team raised money for charities.

And that, in a nutshell, is why her friend and former teammate, Rosie Taulbee, is in Washington, D.C., today.

At the invitation of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Rosie will spend the morning at Arlington National Cemetery.

On Monday, she takes part in the Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremonies at the cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns.

Today, she's doing a run-through. With pleasure.

"I'm a native Cincinnatian," the smiling Cleves resident told me. "We don't want any mistakes."

Rosie and Tootie bowled together in doubles tournaments for 12 years. Their partnership ended too soon.

In the spring of 1997, Tootie learned she had breast cancer. She died three months later.

Rosie wanted to honor Tootie and remind people to "remember the veterans." So, she helped set up an annual tournament in her late partner's name.

Proceeds from the Tootie Pierson Bowlers to Veterans Link at Colerain Bowl aid patients at Tristate veterans hospitals. The 2002 tournament, managed by Pat Canfield, a veteran bowler and Army veteran, raised 95 percent more money than the 2001 event.

Hundreds of women's bowling groups raised funds for veterans this year. None had a larger increase than Tootie's tournament, presented by the Greater Cincinnati Women's Bowling Association - Rosie Taulbee, president.

The only people I've ever heard of laying wreaths at the white marble tomb of the unknown soldier are presidents, their stand-ins and foreign dignitaries. But no Rosies.

"I'm just a real person," she said. We sat in an empty doctor's suite at the Vitreo-Retinal Surgeons' Mount Auburn complex. She's the office manager.

Rosie and her fellow bowlers raise money so hospitalized veterans can have videos, puzzles, headphones and books.

"Little things," Rosie calls them.

The bowlers don't do this for recognition.

Rosie explained that they have fund-raisers "so these veterans, who defended our country and now have to spend the rest of their lives in a hospital, know somebody cares."

Tootie instilled that desire in Rosie. Caring for veterans came naturally to Tootie. Her husband, Don, served in World War II.

Rosie is not the wife of a veteran. Nor is she the sister, daughter or granddaughter of one.

She does recall hearing about "a great-grandfather who fought in the Spanish-American War."

Caring, appreciating hard work and giving thanks do come naturally to Rosie.

She visits local cemeteries to honor loved ones, "to laugh, to reminisce, to feel like they're still here."

She walks up to veterans she's never met and thanks them for fighting for America. "Because of everything they did, we can walk freely up and down the street."

Rosie is the right person for this ceremony. She's light-hearted. But she's not talking this honor lightly.

She knows what she must wear for the occasion. A star-spangled, red, white and blue ball cap from Don Pierson's VFW Post No. 3744 in Deer Park.

When it comes time on Veterans Day for the tomb's guard to put the wreath in place, Rosie knows her mind will be flooded with thoughts and emotions.

She'll say a silent prayer. And be mindful that America is "on the verge of another war."

She'll also think about Tootie. And how she wanted everyone to remember the veterans.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail: cradel@enquirer.com.




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