Rosalie Avery’s entire Jewish identity centered on Holocaust history and its timeless lessons. In fact, she was described at her funeral as being an “intolerant person” because she was “intolerant of intolerance.”
Rosalie devoted enormous energy to studying the Holocaust and learning the fate of her mother’s family. This included a pilgrimage to Poland and Auschwitz. Rosalie’s grandfather was murdered the day the Nazis arrived in their shtetl of Staszow, Poland, south of Kielce, on September 7, 1939. Rosalie’s grandmother was believed to have been deported to a concentration camp where she eventually perished. Her aunt and her twin children also were killed, although it is unknown exactly where. One uncle survived three camps. Three other uncles emigrated to Toronto, Ontario, in the 1920s and her mother, a staunch Zionist, was sent there in 1933 to prevent her from running away to Palestine.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1943, Rosalie lived most of her life in Los Angeles, California, where she worked as the senior administrative analyst for the office of the city administrator for Los Angeles. As a devoted public servant, she received numerous awards from the city, and when she passed away suddenly in 2005, the city council adjourned a meeting in her honor. She had an enormous presence, which affected everyone around her.
Rosalie’s commitment to Holocaust awareness and education led her to designate the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a major beneficiary of her estate. However, this gift would never have reached the Museum were it not for Rosalie’s siblings: her brother, Marvin Avery, and his wife, Reta, and Rosalie’s sister, Dr. Hinda Avery.
When Rosalie executed her will in California, she did not have it witnessed by two individuals, rendering it invalid. Under California law, the entire estate was distributed to Rosalie’s two surviving siblings. Yet Rosalie’s family decided to honor their sister’s wishes by donating an amount to the Museum that was equivalent to the bequest: the extraordinary sum of $450,000. The family still felt Rosalie’s presence. As Marvin said, “We knew Rosalie would be watching.” Rosalie’s family traveled to the Museum in November 2006, where they participated in the unveiling of a permanent engraving on the Donors Wall in recognition of her generosity.