The Secret to Longevity | AspenTimes.com

The Secret to Longevity

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

Gary Rosenau knows the secret to a long life.

At 93, he still goes to the gym every morning at 5 a.m. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease several years ago, and accepting there was no cure, he decided to learn everything he could about the illness so that he could combat the symptoms and live the best life possible.

"Since then, I've been taking care of other people," Rosenau said.

He's taken neighbors to the hospital and supported other friends also diagnosed with Parkinson's. He says helping others does more for him than it does for them.

"When you get older, there's nothing worse than not feeling needed," he said.

A native of Philadelphia, Rosenau was attending Syracuse University when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. He was in the middle of an exam when he heard what had happened.

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"I put the pencil down right there and joined the Navy," Rosenau said.

He was trained as an air traffic controller and worked on a base in New Jersey. While a sailor, he eloped with Anita, a friend of his sister that she had set him up with before he enlisted. They would be married until her death in 2008.

Rosenau's father, a member of the Navy in World War I, owned and operated a company that manufactured girls' dresses.

"When the war was over, I did not intend to go in my dad's business," Rosenau said. "I intended to stay in the Navy."

But when the war was over, Anita was pregnant with their first child, and she encouraged him to take over the family business. Rosenau worked hard to learn about all the company's different departments, because he wanted everyone to know that he could do the job. Just 30 years old when he took over for his retiring father, Rosenau became a member of the Young Presidents' Organization.

Rosenau took his company public in 1960, and it grew to be the largest manufacturer of girls' dresses in the world, employing 600 people, about 500 of whom were women.

"In this kind of a business, it's a women's business," Rosenau said. "The women taught me … if you want a good company, you pay women equal money for equal work."

As manufacturing companies began to go overseas for cheap labor, Rosenau decided he wanted out of the industry and closed his company. Having been to Aspen for YPO meetings several times, he moved to what would become Snowmass in 1954.

In the 1970s, the president of the Snowmass Homeowners Association was moving, and Rosenau took his place. He said he found that the HOA only had $65,000 left in its treasury, and he was concerned that wouldn't be enough to maintain the roads in the area.

Rosenau joined the effort to incorporate the town and was one of the residents who encouraged Jack Schuss to run for mayor. In 1977, with 197 for and 131 against, an election gave birth to the town of Snowmass Village.

Since then, Rosenau has continued to work behind the scenes to support causes and organizations that he feels benefit the community. Often seen speaking up at Town Council meetings, Rosenau remains very passionate about the community he helped bring together.

jill@snowmasssun.com