Elaine Dahl Rohse 1920 - 2023

One Last Column:
A Tribute to Elaine Dahl Rohse,
Freelance Writer, Author and Columnist

The face in the photo will be familiar to many readers of the McMinnville News-Register. For four decades, it graced the bi-weekly column Elaine Dahl Rohse wrote for the newspaper. The column was called “Through Rohse-Colored Glasses” — a perfect title for writings by an eternal optimist with insatiable curiosity and a love for language.

Elaine was born April 12, 1920, in Portland, Oregon. She passed away peacefully in her apartment at McMinnville’s Hillside Retirement Community on June 8, 2023, at the age of 103. To say she lived a long, full life would be a considerable understatement.

She is survived by her son, Mitch, who today lives in Salem with his wife of 44 years, Louann. Elaine adored her daughter-in-law, and the two of them were very close.

Elaine grew up during the Great Depression on a hardscrabble cattle ranch in eastern Oregon’s Grant County, near the small town of Monument. Her family was poor, but so was everyone else she knew. She didn’t know she was poor, so it was no cause for teenage angst. Quite the contrary: she loved the arid sagebrush and rimrock country of eastern Oregon, and had fond memories of growing up there. As she said in the title of her 2007 book about her Depression-era childhood, “Poverty Wasn’t Painful.”

Elaine Rohse graduated from Monument High School in a class with four — yes, four — members. She won a scholarship to attend college, and she jumped at the opportunity. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 1942 with a degree in journalism — the perfect field for an adventuresome young woman eager to explore a new world.

But WWII got in the way. In college, Elaine had caught the eye of a handsome young journalism major by the name of Homer Rohse. Whatever plans they may have had were suddenly dashed when Homer was ordered to join the Army Air Corps. He found himself stationed at a pilot training center in New Mexico.

When the war began, Homer already had his private pilot’s license, so he rose rapidly through the ranks. After all, he was one of the few Air Corps inductees who actually knew how to fly a plane. He quickly became an officer, aircraft commander, and flight instructor, teaching new Air Corps recruits the skills needed to pilot modern warplanes. He became an instructor on piloting the Boeing B-29 Superfortress.

The prospect of world war and of Homer getting sent overseas probably accelerated Homer and Elaine’s plans. They decided to get married, so Elaine moved to New Mexico to be with Homer. The couple married there in 1942, right after Elaine had graduated from the University of Oregon. The couple lived in base housing near Alamagordo, New Mexico, where Homer continued to train pilots until the war ended in 1945.

His unit was two weeks away from being deployed to the northern Pacific for the invasion of Japan. But the sudden obliteration of two large Japanese cities in massive atomic clouds caused the island nation to abandon its plans for a last-ditch defense of the homeland. Japan surrendered immediately, and Homer’s unit never deployed to the northern Pacific.

With the war’s end, Homer left the Air Corps, and the young married couple returned to Oregon, now with a toddler in tow. The threesome settled in McMinnville in 1947, and quickly put down roots — very deep roots, as it turned out. They lived there for the rest of their lives.

For a few years, Elaine’s energy and attentions were focused on raising young son Mitch. (That would be me: I wrote this column.) As he grew, however, so too did Elaine’s restless spirit. She took a job with the local newspaper, familiar to us now as the McMinnville News-Register. She became involved in several civic organizations, including the local historical society, library society, and city planning commission. She was the first woman to serve on McMinnville’s City Council, a post she held from 1971 to 1975. She became a prominent lobbyist to the Oregon Legislature, serving clients such as the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, Oregon Dairy Farmers' Association and the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

And through it all, she wrote. Over the years, she free-lanced hundreds of articles to a wide variety of publications. She wrote a book about her childhood during the Great Depression, “Poverty Wasn’t Painful.” It was published in 2007. And, of course, she wrote her longstanding column for the News-Register, “Through Rohse-Colored Glasses,” for four decades.

When Homer retired from his 40-year career with the News-Register, he and Elaine found more time to indulge in one of their favorite pursuits: travel. Elaine began scouring travel magazines and brochures, planning for the next trip. And there was always a next trip.

She wasn’t content to sit behind the window of a tour bus and watch the scenery pass by. No, she wanted to wade into that scenery and ferret out the adventures, the unusual, the unexpected. Those Rohse-Colored Glasses made her exceptionally good at that.

For example, consider her 2018 tour-bus trip to Colorado with daughter-in-law Louann and me. One of the stops along the way was at Royal Gorge, on the Arkansas River. Over time, the river has created a deep canyon. The canyon’s over 1000 feet deep in some places. In one of the deepest places, some entrepreneur had installed a commercial zip line across it, 1,200 feet above the river. Elaine decided she just had to take that zip line across Royal Gorge — and she did. When she reached the other side, her smile was broader than the river. She was 99 years old at the time.

Elaine’s rose-colored glasses served her well throughout her long, full life. Where others might look down the road and see adversity looming ahead, Elaine saw opportunity.

Consider, for example, the title of the book she wrote about her experiences growing up on a small cattle ranch in eastern Oregon during the Great Depression: “Poverty Wasn’t Painful.” She came to see the poverty of the Depression years as a gift — a package of life lessons learned early about resiliency, hard work, friendship, and the hollowness of a quest for material goods.

Elaine Rohse’s column now will be gone from the these pages. Presumably, she’s gone to new places to find new adventures, fresh stories, and a host of subjects beyond the windows of a tour bus. But she did leave behind one thing: her glasses. Yes, those glasses: the rose-colored lenses through which she viewed the world she presented to us. I hear there are plenty of the glasses still available, yours for the taking, in a vast array of colors and sizes, all at no cost.

Try a pair! I can just about guarantee you’ll like them. They brighten even the gloomiest day.

And when that happens, send a silent thank-you to Elaine Dahl Rohse and her Rohse-Colored Glasses. She truly will feel honored.
* In old-school journalism ”-30-“ is slang meaning “The End.”
No funeral services for Elaine Rohse have been scheduled. She will be interred alongside Homer, her beloved husband of 70 years, in Willamette National Cemetery in Portland. Condolences, flowers, inquiries and such should be directed to Macy & Son Funeral Home, 135 N.E. Evans Street, McMinnville, OR 97128; (503) 472-6151.

A SPECIAL NOTE: Elaine’s family extends their warmest regards and appreciation to Publisher Jeb Bladine and his staff at the McMinnville News-Register newspaper. Without their patient and thoughtful support for Elaine over the years, there would have been no Rohse-Colored Glasses.


Steve Pearson

Nice column, Mitch. What a wonderful lady. I always read her column, especially enjoyed when she wrote stories about what life was like when she was growing up.