Warmed by the beautiful quilt her daughter Rosana made for her and with her loving children and family by her side, Rose Marie Saleen, 84, of Emmett and formerly McCall and Boise, Idaho, passed away Sunday, April 13, 2014 at St. Luke's Hospital in Meridian, Idaho. Rose believed in the Biblical significance of the number 7. To her mysterious credit, she passed away on the seventh day at 7 p.m. with her seven children by her.
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Rose was born Aug. 17, 1929, at Troy, Idaho, to Archie and Bertha McCracken. She was raised in the Idaho backcountry landscape during the Great Depression. From a young age, Rose was thoroughly an Idaho girl, living in the communities of Pierce, Kooskia, Snowshoe Mine, Stibnite, Yellow Pine, Deadwood and Cascade.
On Dec. 23, 1946, she married William (Bill) Saleen after his heroic return from the European theatre in WWII. Together the couple had seven children William Clyde, Thomas Edward, Merrill Lyle, Rosana Belle, Danny Robert, Janet Carol and Steven Alvin.
New opportunities for work led the family from Cascade to southern Idaho and onto Sutherlin, Oregon. In 1959 when Bill was 35 years old, he passed away leaving Rose, age 29, to raise the seven children. At the time the oldest son (Bill) was 10 and the youngest (Steve) was nine months. With undaunted courage, an old-fashioned resilience and a strong belief that the almighty would provide guidance and support, Rose accepted the challenge - living to her last breath as the protector and spiritual leader to her children and their families.
The backcountry lifestyle flowed through Rose like the Salman River flows through the wilderness. Wanting to ensure her family grew up to enjoy and appreciate the lessons of the Idaho backcountry as a way of life, she uprooted from Sutherlin, Ore., to Yellow Pine, Idaho, where her mother's elderly brother, Uncle Thomas Hagen resided. The long trip was made in a red and white 1957 Ford station wagon, a gift from Rose's brother Roy. The trip was completed with virtually everything the family owned crammed in that classic and memorable old station wagon along with Jack and Mary Drake's Volkswagen van. However, with great reservation and reluctance from Uncle Tom, the family moved into a one bedroom home on Uncle Tom's property right next door to the old bachelor's single room cabin. It did not take long for Uncle Tom to understand and appreciate the challenges and blessings the young Saleen family would bring to his life; especially Rose's cooking and companionship.
Taking it all in stride, the family took to congested living conditions, to bathing in washtubs, to packing water from the well pump, to ensuring lanterns were full of white gas, to cutting wood for heating and cooking, to using the screen cooler on the front porch and to using that stinky old outhouse. Not having electricity, a telephone, a television or a doctor any closer than 50 miles on mountainous dirt roads and being snowed in during the winter were minor inconveniences.
After the first summer, Bill was ready for high school. He moved the 50 miles to McCall where he was boarded by various and hospitable families. The other children of school age attended the single room Yellow Pine school.
During the early 1960s there were many grand old timers and hunting outfitters living in Yellow Pine and the surrounding region. Some were colorful, some were cantankerous, but most took to Rose and her children like family. Rose started the first church in Yellow Pine and led weekly church services. It was not long too before many of the old timers, experiencing some of the toughest problems life can offer, started coming to Rose asking her to pray for them.
Those Yellow Pine years provided incredibly profound and fond memories for Rose and the children, especially the older boys who had some of the best hunting and fishing available to them anywhere - exactly what Rose had envisioned. It was not long though when Tom reached high school age and Rose elected to move the family to McCall to keep everyone together. However, the family's fascination and reverence with the vast Idaho backcountry had already taken root, with the sanctity of it becoming home.
Since that early time, there were regular trips back to Yellow Pine and sites along the way and further along by every family member. Even when Rose was no longer able to see the back country sites by car and horseback, a trip with Arnold Aviation was arranged, providing one last glimpse of Johnson Creek, Yellow Pine, Big Creek, Snow Shoe Mine, the Chicken Peak and Chamberlain country, Mackay Bar and the famous Rebillet Ranch on the South Fork. If only we knew what precious thoughts were going through her mind as she flew by all the revered backcountry locations deep-rooted in her memory and identity, that meant so much to her.
On June 7, 1974, when the older children had left the nest and the youngest was in his mid-teens, Rose married a childhood friend she had gone to school in Cascade with, Louis Rebillet. Louie, as he was affectionately known, was an elk and deer hunting outfitter in the South Fork of the Salmon River and Big Creek regions. He also hunted cougar in the wintertime and had killed 40 cougars by 1968. After a few seasons operating the outfitter business together, Louie sold the operation and moved to Boise with Rose. However, the big town of Boise was not to his liking. Soon, they were back in the mountains operating the hunting business at Mackay Bar and managing the Hettinger Ranch on the South Fork, where they fed about 60 head of horses and mules in the winter. Later, with Louie and Rose back in Boise, Louie took a truck driving job. In 1985, at age 55, he passed away while making a delivery stop in Florida. The years riding the trails with one of the best outdoorsman Idaho has ever known were incredibly good years for Rose.
After Louie's death, Rose moved back to McCall, where she managed and was the director of the Senior Citizen Center for several years. Thereafter she moved back to Boise and spent a significant portion of her time writing her historical memoirs and reflections of her life, which she would eventually publish in her book, "He Gave Me a Song." For her grandchildren she also re-wrote many of the Biblical stories in formats much easier to read and comprehend.
At the time of her death, Rose left the world with seven children, 18 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren – all with heavy hearts. Rose once wrote, "Had it not been for them my life would have been nothing. As it is I am the richest woman in the world."
As she grew older and as the troubles of managing a home became increasingly difficult, Rose moved into an assisted living complex in Emmett. Her book was circulated and soon it was read by retired Idaho State Policemen and current Emmett farmer Ray Rohrbacher. Ray met Rose and before long, they were married. Ray provided a wonderful life and companionship for Rose for several years. His dedication and support of Rose greatly added to her life. In time, however, Infirmities related to age created a number of complex problems and resulted in the divorce of Ray and Rose. She lived out the remainder of her life in the Cottages in Emmett, an assisted living residence.
Rose had countless friends and was a picture-perfect Mother, Mother-in-Law, and Grandmother. The biggest contributions Rose made in her time on earth however was to create a circle of love and connection in her family that can never be broken and also introducing so many to the Lord.
Surviving Rose is her sister Donna Dick of Yoncalla, Ore. and her children and their families Bill and Shari Saleen of Donnelly, Idaho, Tom and Toni Saleen of Clarkston, Wash., Merrill and Nikki Saleen of Kuna, Idaho, Rosana and Mike Little of Emmett, Danny and Shirlene Saleen of Cascade, Janet and Tony Meckel of McCall and Steve and Maria Saleen of Boise. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews who loved Aunt Rose.
Rose was preceded in death by her mother, Bertha Osborn, by her brothers, Edward and Le Roy McCracken and by her great-great granddaughter, Shara Alletag.
Rose's celebration of life will be on Saturday, April 19, 2014, at 10 a.m. at the Nazarene Church in Emmett. Rose will be laid to rest at 3:30 p.m. amongst the whispering pines at the McCall Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family graciously asks those affected to find a way to bring cheer into a senior's life.
Potter Funeral Chapel
228 East Main Street
Emmett, ID 83617
Published in Emmett Messenger Index from Apr. 22 to May 21, 2014