Rose Treat of Oak Bluffs died at home on Thursday, November 17. She was 102.
Born in Czechoslovokia in 1908, Rose’s family immigrated to the United States in 1910. Raised in a German-speaking family, Rose did not learn English until she went to school, and each day she taught her mother what she had learned in school that day, and in the evening, her father Thus her parents learned to speak, read, and write English.
From the age of 5-8 years, the family lived six months on the Lower East Side, and six months on a farm in New York state, where Rose learned the ABCs on a slate in a very rural one-room school house where each child had a janitorial chore to do before classes started — sweeping the room, gathering wood for the big black stove, raising the flag. Rose shared the job of taking the water bucket to the nearest farmhouse, about half a mile away, where the farmer would dip her bucket into the well, and pour it into the school bucket. Then Rose and the other student would carry the bucket of water to the schoolhouse, place it with a dipper in a corner of the room, and each child would drink from the dipper. Her teacher had only two years of high school education, but a great love of nature, which she imparted to the students. Although Rose’s early education was lacking in many ways, she was always glad and thankful to have had this unique opportunity to live in this 19th-century situation.
Rose graduated from Mt. Sinai Hospital School for nurses in New York, and worked as a public health nurse for the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service for several years, and then with the Westchester County Department of Health. She is a graduate of Teacher’s College, Columbia University, where, in her last year, she received a scholarship.
She met Lawrence Treat, a mystery writer, in 1942, and they were married the following year. She volunteered as a Red Cross Nurse, teaching Home Nursing in public schools, Bedford Woman’s Prison, and other groups. She also worked in the Sing Sing Prison Blood Bank.
In 1959, the Treats spent August on Lobsterville Beach where they purchased a summer cottage. That is where Rose began to create her Seaweed Collages, for which she became well known. In the following years, more summer months were spent on Martha’s Vineyard. In 1972, they moved to Martha’s Vineyard. Rose’s wonderful artwork was exhibited in many Island galleries and in the permanent collections of the Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Hole, Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
Rose taught many workshops in the art of seaweed collage in public schools on the Cape and on Martha’s Vineyard, at senior centers, Camp Jabberwacky, the Vineyard Museum, and with her friends in the Polar Bear Club.
Henry Beetle Hough, former editor of the Vineyard Gazette, told her that she made the Island aware of mushrooms and seaweed.
In 1985, she published The Seaweed Book. In 2001, Rose donated her extensive collection of over 350 seaweed pressings to the Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury.
An avid mycologist, Rose was an expert on wild mushroom identification and led autumn mushroom walks that ended in delectable feasts.
Rose was a member of the Oak Bluffs Polar Bear Club, swimming and seaweed collecting in the early hours on Inkwell Beach.
She was a fierce Scrabble player and played up to (and including) the day she died.
Rose was the Jam and Jelly Judge for more than 40 years at the MV Agricultural Fair.
Rose was always outgoing and outspoken. With her husband Larry, she travelled extensively to Japan and Europe. Their rich social circle of many artistic and literary friends included William Maxwell, Milton Avery, Wallace Putnam, and Conseulo Kanaga.
Rose is survived by her sister, Laura Lohman, and her brother, Judge Norbert Ehrenfreund, as well as her nephews and nieces: Steve Lohman of West Tisbury, Deborah Lohman Rubin, Jon Lohman, Zach Ehrenfreund, Laurel Ehrenfreund, Cathy Enthof, Dan Ehrenfruend, and Janet Ehrenfreund and all of their families. And also her caregiver Deborah Giuffre.
In lieu of flowers, please take a walk on a beach and look at the seaweed and think of Rose.
A celebration of Rose’s life will be held at the Polly Hill Arboretum in the spring of 2012.