80 to 100: Rossman makes lasting impression on city

Paul Rossman participates during the annual Marine Memorial Service in 2007. - Courier-Herald file photo by Brenda Sexton
Paul Rossman participates during the annual Marine Memorial Service in 2007.
— image credit: Courier-Herald file photo by Brenda Sexton

Paul Rossman treasures the relationships he’s developed in Enumclaw, his home of more than 60 years.

Now creeping up on his 92nd birthday, the former farm boy, Navy veteran and electrician can put a lifetime in perspective. “I have a lot of friends in Enumclaw,” he says. “I guess that’s why I never left.

”From his cozy digs at High Point Village, Rossman relates stories that make one thing absolutely clear: just as the town has been good to him, Rossman has made an indelible mark on the community.

If nothing else, there were the decades he owned and operated Rossman Electric. The small company experienced its ups and downs, but he rustled up enough business to keep four vans rolling; and the firm’s payroll meant a small corps of workers kept food on the family table.

Behind the scenes, he helped put food in the mouths of those who perhaps couldn’t afford a decent meal.

Rossman was a key player in the early days of the community food bank, back when it was housed at Kibler Elementary and before it was taken over by the Kiwanis Club. His involvement began when then-mayor Fred Farman asked Rossman to provide some electrical work; Farman admitted there was no money immediately available, so Rossman waited patiently for a check that finally came. He was also known to loan one of his vans when a load of food had to be picked up.

Rossman’s community involvement stretches in different directions. He has been a regular through the years, walking in community parades, hoisting the flag for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He’s also a lifetime member of both Kiwanis and the Enumclaw Historical Society and belongs to Knights of Columbus, an affiliation through Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where he attends every Sunday.

Rossman admits, somewhat modestly, that his legacy will live on long after he’s gone.

Operating a small business wasn’t always easy and Rossman took opportunities – in the form of real estate purchases – to supplement his income. If business was slow, he said, there was always money coming in from rental properties he owned with his wife, who died in 1997.

Some of those are still bringing a steady income and have been placed in a trust. He and his wife identified five local charities and, after his passing, those charities will be the beneficiary of Rossman’s holdings.“All that comes out of that trust will stay right here in Enumclaw,” he says proudly.

Rossman wasn’t always in a position to help others – in fact, quite the opposite.He was born Oct. 20, 1919, on a South Dakota farm, near the town of Stickney. It was a small community then and remains so, currently boasting a population of less than 300.

“Times were tough back then,” he says, recalling that his father worked hard to collect wages of 37 cents per hour. Seeking a better life for his family, Rossman’s dad borrowed $100 and jumped at the opportunity to move to Bremerton, Wash., and take a job in the naval yard. It was early 1941 and Rossman, a young man at the time, made the move west, shortly before the world changed.

The attack on Pearl Harbor came just months later and young men everywhere, including Rossman, lined up to join America’s fighting forces. He had suffered a nasty broken leg when he was 16 and there was some thought that it might disqualify him from serving. He recalls telling his father, “I hope they take me, because I don’t want to stay home.

”The military wasn’t too selective at that time and Rossman soon found himself in the Navy. He had learned electrical work in South Dakota and served as an electrician’s mate.

From a large family of seven boys and two girls, Rossman notes that at one time, during the war, there were five Rossman brothers in active duty. One was a Pearl Harbor survivor and all made it home.

His father’s connections had brought the family to Enumclaw, but the kids struck out on their own.

Following the war, “we all kind of scattered out,” he said.

Rossman stayed, though, having landed a job with a local electrician. By 1951, he had founded his own company.

“I did everything,” he said, citing memorable jobs like wiring one of the ski lifts at Crystal Mountain and helping with the renovation of the long-abandoned Lester school. The school had been heated with coal but was being switched to electric heat.“I liked to go out to those places to see the wildlife,” Rossman said.

For all his business accomplishments and community involvement, Rossman is quick to point out nothing compares to family. He and his wife raised three children: a daughter remained in Enumclaw, their son is in South Prairie and another daughter isn’t too far away, residing in Redmond.

Rossman moved into quarters at High Point Village after a health scare nearly a year ago.Working to help others, he was delivering food from Sacred Heart to the food bank at More Pennies From Heaven. Rounding a corner, Rossman slipped on some ice and fell, breaking his hip. Things took a turn for the worse and he spent four days in a coma.

“I came out of it good,” he said, adding that doctors credited his active life with a speedy recovery.He has slowed down some, but there are still friends to visit, VFW meetings to attend and church services on Sunday. In all, he says, “I’ve had a good life.”

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