327th Meeting – Tuesday, October 12th 2010

Tribute to Edward Kirk Rose (1931-2010)

“The Wacky Owner of the Best Cat House in Thailand

Present: Mrs. Malee Rose, George Ole Olson, Bill Madden, Christopher Woodman, Jack Eisner, Wilawan Soontah, Louis Gabaude, John Cadet, Ron Emmons, Jack Hines, Oliver Hargreave, Art Halbisen, Peter Freeouf.  

The opening speaker was Peter Freeouf who talked about “The Life and Times of Ed Rose”. This was followed by a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Images from the Life of Ed Rose” by Jack Eisner.

Here is a summary of the evening:

A former convenor of the Informal Northern Thai Group (INTG), Edward Rose, passed away on August 11, 2010, at McKean Hospital in Chiang Mai, after a long and courageous struggle with cancer.  He was 78 years old. Ed was a well-known member of the Chiang Mai community, active in many organizations over the years.  He had just recently retired from the Faculty of Medicine at Chiang Mai University, where he was an English language instructor and consultant.

This evening’s program dedicated to celebrating the life of Edward Kirk Rose is a tribute to a man of great intellect, wit and sense of humor.  In short, a man for all seasons who enjoyed the company of friends, acquaintances and strangers alike.

Edward Rose had been a familiar figure in Chiang Mai since settling here with his Thai wife Khun Malee in 1983.  His interests ranged from raising animals of various types, especially pedigree Siamese and Burmese cats, to teaching English to Thais of all walks of life.  Ed was a man of insatiable intellectual curiosity.  He had a lifelong interest in literature and linguistics, and spoke several languages, including Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, French, and Latin. He majored in science and mathematics at university, reaching the doctoral level at Stanford University.  In addition to serving as convenor of the Informal Northern Thai Group, Ed was active in several organizations, including the Radio Amateur Society of Thailand and the Gymkhana Club of Chiang Mai.

 

Ed was born on November 10, 1931 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.  He was the firstborn of Elizabeth and Edward Rose, both medical doctors.  His mother, Elizabeth Kirk Rose, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 106, a pioneer woman in the field of medicine, was emeritus professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania. Ed graduated in 1953 from the famous and historic American university, Dartmouth College, in Lebanon, Connecticut. He went on to the PhD program in mathematics at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California.

In 1967, during his doctoral work, he was drawn to take a civilian job in Vietnam where he applied his expertise in mathematics as a teacher, technical researcher and systems engineer, for three years.  Afterwards he took on a job as a government monitor for the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) land reform program.  Ed’s brother Bill was also in Vietnam at the same time, as a civilian worker with a volunteer agency that operated a hospital for the Montagnard people in the Central Highlands.  Ed studied Chinese at university and became fluent in Vietnamese during his years in that country. He left Vietnam in 1975, in one of the last helicopters to lift off from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon.

Ed had fallen in love with the Orient, and Southeast Asia had become home.  After leaving Vietnam in 1975, Bangkok became home.  He was already familiar with Thailand, after visiting the country during his years in Vietnam.  His fluency in Vietnamese became an important asset in assisting the American Embassy in Bangkok in processing Vietnamese refugees. He also began teaching English as a language teacher, first at the Thai Military Academy and later for three years at the Language Center of Chulalongkorn University.

Ed began studying Thai at AUA (American University Alumni Association), as soon as he arrived in Bangkok. He became fluent in speaking, reading and writing the Thai language.  And, he ended up marrying his Thai language teacher, Khun Malee. After moving to Chiang Mai, Khun Malee continued teaching Thai at Chiang Mai’s AUA, on Ratchamankla Road, where she still teaches.

In 1983, Ed’s background in USAID land reform and development in Vietnam led to a job with the USAID-sponsored Mae Chaem Development Project, in northern Thailand, which brought him and Malee to Chiang Mai.

Ed was with the Mae Chaem Project for one year, and in 1984 began teaching at AUA in Chiang Mai, and at Chiang Mai University, where he remained for three decades.  At CMU, Ed began at the Faculty of Humanities, and later moved over to the Faculty of Medicine.  He wrote for various local journals in Chiang Mai, including the Chiang Mai Newsletter (now known as Chiang Mai City Life Magazine) and the Chiang Mai Mail. He was an avid short-wave radio operator and was a life member of the Radio Amateur Society of Thailand and served as its secretary for the years 1977 and 1978.

Ed and Malee are probably best known for their famous Chiang Mai Cattery, a world-renowned center for the breeding and distribution of pedigree cats, primarily Siamese, Burmese and Korat.  During the 1980’s Ed and Malee’s cattery was considered the country’s primary center for breeding Siamese cats.  At its height, the cattery’s population was over 100 cats.  Their cats are known to cat-aficionados around the world and have been featured in the Thai TV program Tarm Pai Doo, the Japanese TBS network, a five-part BBC TV miniseries, a Panasonic Company calendar, Martin Clutterbuck’s book “Siamese Cats: Legends and Reality”, and a 1995 edition of Thai postage stamps.  The twin of the Siamese Sealpoint featured on the 9 baht stamp was presented by the Roses to King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, in 1988, during their tour of northern Thailand.

Ed courageously struggled with cancer for many years.  Although long past the age when many others would have already retired from their jobs, Ed continued doing what he loved most.  He did not let the cancer stop him from either his work at Chiang Mai University, or his enjoyment of life.

Friends who shared their experiences of Ed included Thomas Baude, John Cadet, Louis Gabaude, Oliver Hargreave, Christopher Woodman, and messages were read in absentia from Roy Hudson, Perry McSherry and Mel Tatsumi. During the telling of numerous stories about Ed’s life it was revealed that he felt comfortable with being referred to as ‘whacky’, ‘quirky’ and/or ‘eccentric.’ The title “The owner of the best cat house in Thailand” came from one of his students who, very excitedly and with great pride, announced in company that “Our teacher is the owner of the best cat house in Thailand.” She was referring to Ed and Malee’s cattery but the precise English term escaped her at that moment. When Ed was asked whether the statement was true or not he merely smiled enigmatically and said “Who knows?” Whether Ed was ‘whacky’ or ‘sane’ was often a matter of opinion, depending on how well you knew him and your own state of whackiness and/or sanity. One of Ed’s more recent ‘quirkier’ or ‘saner’ moments occurred not so long ago – during the Bush administration, at the height of anti-French sentiment when French Fries and French Toast were being called Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast and Americans were dumping gallons of French wine down drains - Ed made serious inquiries as to how difficult it would be to change his nationality and become French. He was absolutely serious but he didn’t pursue the investigation any further because of the difficulties he was experiencing in learning the French language.

Everyone who knew Ed could not help but be touched by the humanity of the man. Ed Rose walked tall, with a passion for life, love of the creatures of this earth and a helping hand for all peoples. If the worth of a man’s life is valued not by one single failure or one solitary success but by the contribution he made then Ed lived a very worthy life. He will be missed.

Ed is survived by his widow, Khun Malee, and a brother, William, in Tampa, Florida, USA.

The funeral rites and cremation were performed on August 15, 2010 at the Koh Klang Buddhist temple in Koh Klang, south of town on the Mae Ping River, where Ed and Malee have made their home for many years.