Rose Herring passed away in the early morning hours of January 3rd, 2022, having lived the last 68 of her 93 years in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. She was born Bertha Rozelia Sullivan, the fifth of six children of Sam and Bertha Sullivan, sharecropper farmers in eastern North Carolina, outside of “Little Washington.”
Rose’s father died when she was three, and she and four of her siblings grew up at the Masonic Home for Children in Oxford. Peanut, as she was called, had an independent spirit, and was on the Saturday night “list of children who had misbehaved” every single week. She told stories of only wearing shoes in the summer to walk the mile to church, and how much her feet hurt on the trip back home. She remained, however, forever grateful to the Masons for the opportunity to grow up together with her siblings, and had fond memories of her time there.
As a teen she returned home and graduated from Bath High School. When the president of Atlantic Christian College came to speak at her school, Rose spoke with him about wanting to go to college. He told her if she wanted it badly enough, to come and they would find a way. She took him up on the offer. After high school graduation she packed a suitcase, put herself on a three hour Greyhound bus ride, and showed up at the president’s office asking to attend. He allowed her to get a degree, and helped her find a secretarial job to pay back her tuition after she graduated. President Hilley is another person Rose was thankful for.
While working this job Rose lived with her Aunt Cottie in Wilson, and walked to the corner each morning to catch a bus to work. Leonard Herring was staying at a boarding house on that corner one week, as part of his job with Dunn and Bradstreet. From his window he saw her walk to the bus and liked what he saw. One day he ‘happened’ to be on the sidewalk as she was coming by and offered her a ride. Rose said no thank you, but after her aunt found out more about him, and he asked again, she accepted a ride. That was the beginning of the love of her life.
Rose and Leonard were married with two children when Leonard answered a newspaper ad for a bookkeeper job in North Wilkesboro, with a small but growing hardware store the other end of the state from their families. When Leonard came to interview, Rose sat in the car on a Saturday on Tenth Street for several hours and cried; lots to see there in 1955. He took the job, and Rose said “it better be good!” It was. Leonard came to Wilkes first, and Rose moved the household and children on her 27th birthday.
She was a great defender of her children and grandchildren — whether they were in the right or not. To treat one of them unfairly in her sight was to be on her grudge list forever. But that did not stop her from her own form of punishment once home.
Rose made the most of life. She and her sister, Em, did handstands off the pool diving board when she was old enough to be teaching her grandchildren to do the same. Rose took up tennis mid-life, played regularly, and won tournaments against much younger opponents. After she and Bev Cook won a local tournament Leonard stated to everyone within earshot that Rose was older than the combined ages of her partner and their opponents. She never willingly let anyone win against her, not even her grandchildren. She only stopped playing when, at 83, she pursued a shot so vigorously she fell and got a concussion. (When she woke up on the court she only wanted to know if she won the point.)
She was instrumental in getting a first-class library built in Wilkes County, pursuing all aspects of it with a passion. The feisty spirit Rose first showed at the Masonic home served her well in fighting for a cause she believed in. You’d have to see her at a a County Commissioner’s meeting to know what that means.
Rose was a great hostess and homemaker. She loved her large yard and plants, and she loved doing things for her family, her nieces and nephews, and her friends.
But above everything else, Rose was deeply and truly in love with Leonard until the end, as he was with her. Rose was his partner and supporter in his work, and his life, in good times which could be very good, and in more challenging times shared later in life. In all times and circumstances, she was the wind beneath his wings.
Rose was predeceased by her husband and an infant son, Lawrence Gregory, and by her siblings, Sam, Mabel, Weldon, Em and Dottie. She is survived by her children, Lee (Pam) and Sandra (Gary); grandchildren Greg, Mark, Andrew (Jade), Austin (Chelsea), Carson (Nathan) and Erika (Matt); and great grandchildren she loved to see, Fox, Ezra, Parker, Adrian, Evan and Jake.
Rose’s independent attitude served her well for 92 of her 93 years. For this last year, we will be forever grateful and indebted to her most awesome crew of caregivers who became friends: Rosie, Jane, Kara, Denna, Audrey, Missy, Charlene and Deneen.
If you are inclined to make a donation in Rose’s name, please consider the Wilkes County Library, 215 10th St, North Wilkesboro, NC 28659.
The family will receive friends at the First United Methodist Church, North Wilkesboro, on Saturday, January 8th, from noon until one o’clock, followed by a service in the sanctuary at one o’clock.
Online condolences may be made at www.reinssturdivant.com.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Rose Sullivan Herring, please visit our floral store.
Friends of the Wilkes County Library
215 10th Street, North Wilkesboro NC 28659