Gwen Rosser, 85, passed in peace at her home in Tahoe Vista on Monday, July 23rd, 2018, after a courageous fight against cancer. In the last months of Gwen's life, her four daughters and their spouses, along with many other dear relatives and friends, surrounded Gwen with a steady stream of love and support. The death of this formidably accomplished woman leaves an unbridgeable gap in the lives of all who knew and loved her.
Gwen was curious and adventurous, enjoying hiking, kayaking and traveling. For Gwen, the more difficult the goal, the more avidly she took it on! She volunteered her time improving wilderness areas with the Regional Wilderness Committee, kayaked on whitewater rapids in Alaska, Colorado, and Oregon, hiked the entire Tahoe Rim Trail, summited Mt. Whitney (multiple times), led snowshoe treks in the Sierras, and at 82 years old, climbed to the base camp of Annapurna in Nepal. Gwen traveled the world, setting foot on every continent, and was fascinated by foreign cultures, foods, and languages. Gwen was actively involved in supporting National Public Radio, The Sierra Club, the National Parks Foundation, Keep Tahoe Blue, Worldwide Fund for Nature, Defenders of Wildlife, Doctors Without Borders, San Francisco State University, Heifer International, and the Truckee chapter of the Democratic Club.
Gwen Lee Wisehaupt was born on June 26, 1933, in Los Angeles, California to John Daniel and Elda Emma Wisehaupt, the middle born of their 3 daughters. Early in her life, Gwen's natural curiosity got her into plenty of mischief. She did well in school though, particularly in math. Summers spent camping in the Sierras and an affinity for the outdoors fostered in Gwen a keen respect for nature and a thirst for science. In her 20s, this already adventuresome woman made lifelong friends and discovered her passion for travel while working as a flight attendant with United Airlines, which eventually landed her in Germany, where she lived for 2 years, working on the US military base in Wiesbaden.
Upon her return to California, Gwen defied societal gender expectations by winning a scholarship for Women in Science to San Francisco State University. She graduated at the top of her class with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1964. She then devoted two years to the Peace Corps, teaching science and math at a secondary school for girls in Ghana, after which she traveled throughout Africa and the Middle East. These fruitful years provided Gwen a vast repertoire of material for the stories she would tell for years to come.
With the Peace Corps behind her, Gwen worked as a chemist at Stanford Research Institute, met and married William Rosser, became a mother, and eventually settled in Los Altos, California, with their blended family. Throughout, Gwen was heavily involved in her children's lives, volunteering as a Girl Scout leader and PTA treasurer at Almond Elementary School, and camping and hiking with her family. She eventually returned to school and received her master's degree in chemistry from San Jose State University in 1979, after which she worked as a chemist at Balaz Labs and Syntex. Gwen missed teaching, however, so she returned to SJSU for her teaching certificate, and from 1985-1993, taught chemistry at Homestead High School in Cupertino, California. During her years at Homestead, Gwen performed in school plays, took continuing education classes, and also completed flight training for her private pilot's license, a long held dream. After retirement, Gwen and Bill embarked on the experience of a lifetime. After receiving their TOEFL certificates in Italy, they taught English at The Northeast China Institute of Electric Power in Jilin, China for two years. They concluded this marvelous experience with a journey on the Orient Express across Mongolia and Russia before returning home.
In 2000, Gwen and Bill relocated to Tahoe Vista, California, where they discovered a close-knit community of friends who welcomed Gwen into the Fawn Rim Book Club and the Lifescapes Writing Class at the Incline Village Library, where Gwen wrote nearly 400 autobiographical narratives. Never one to sit still for too long, Gwen decided, at age 66, that it wasn't too late to learn to play the upright string bass. Gwen continued to stay active after Bill's unexpected death in 2003 by volunteering at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, hiking with the Berkeley Hiking Club, taking her grandchildren camping, and traveling with Road Scholar and Overseas Adventure Travel. She was recently able to cross a few more destinations off her bucket list, including Sarajevo, Iguazú Falls, Dubrovnik, Patagonia, and swimming in the Amazon River. Gwen will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved her.
Gwen was preceded in death by her loving husband of thirty-five years, Bill Rosser, son, Greg Rosser, and beloved sister, Lela Grime. Gwen is survived by her sister Jean Klippstein, daughters Ellen (David) Van Horn, Miriam (Michele DeClue) Rosser, Monica (John) Garnache, Audrey (Paul) Burdick; grandchildren Michelle, Will, Benny, Sophie, Rachel and Libby; her nieces and nephews, and many beloved friends.
A ""Celebration of Life"" in honor of Gwen will be held August 18th at 2pm at the home of Diane Martin, 210 Rim Drive, Tahoe Vista, California 96148. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Tahoe Forest Hospice.