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Shirley W. Rosen, inspiring home economics teacher, and animal rights champion, dies at 72

Mrs. Rosen was so committed to her students that several remained lifelong friends. “She took me under her wing and left a lasting legacy,” her former student Mary Jacobs Gorrell said.

Mrs. Rosen and husband Mark met as young teachers at University City High School.
Mrs. Rosen and husband Mark met as young teachers at University City High School.Read moreCourtesy of the family

Shirley W. Rosen, 72, of Blue Bell, a former high school home economics teacher, who effectively mentored students in life as well as the domestic arts, died Saturday, Aug. 14, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at Jefferson Abington Hospital.

Also an animal lover of the highest degree, Mrs. Rosen retired from teaching in 2009 after a 30-year career during which she taught and inspired countless students to cook; sew; design; manage money; and, to the delight of their parents, clean up after themselves.

A pet owner her entire life, she volunteered for many programs associated with animals. She screened potential owners at pet adoption centers, raised money for pet charities, and was active with ACCT Philly, an animal care and control service provider.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics at Montclair State University and a master’s degree in design at Drexel University. She taught home economics, which she expanded to include banking and finance, at University City High School, Masterman School, and the middle school and high school in Upper Merion.

She had a keen sense of design, blending color palettes and swatches of fabric with furniture and accessories to create comfortable living spaces,” her husband, Mark, wrote in a tribute.

Most of all, her husband and daughter Amy said, Mrs. Rosen was the gear that made their family go.

“She loved deeply and was an amazing wife, mother, family member, teacher, and steadfast friend,” her daughter wrote in a tribute.

“She made me a better man,” her husband said.

Mrs. Rosen was so committed to her high school students that several remained lifelong friends. Mary Jacobs Gorrell was her student at University City, and she still whips up the same lasagna recipe she learned from Mrs. Rosen in 1976.

Already a capable seamstress in high school, Gorrell said Mrs. Rosen helped her “take it to another level.” Mrs. Rosen also explained fabrics, colors, and buttons to Gorrell, and together they bought Gorrell’s first big sewing machine, a Singer Model 533, which she still uses.

“She took me under her wing and left a lasting legacy,” Gorrell said.

Born in Hackensack, N.J., in 1949, Shirley Warych graduated from Hackensack High School, moved to Philadelphia after college, and got a teaching job at University City. It was there she met Mark Rosen, an accomplished science teacher.

They didn’t hit it off at first. They seemed incompatible. She was Catholic. He is Jewish. She was an extrovert. He is a self-described introvert. But their core values aligned, and their differences actually gave their relationship a zest that never waned.

They married in 1981, and, of course, she made her own wedding gown. They lived with Amy in West Mount Airy, vacationed summers in Ocean City, N.J., before school started, and later moved to Blue Bell.

Her husband said Mrs. Rosen was a “model” for their daughter. “She knew all about children and took Amy everywhere,” he said. Amy said her mother constantly said, “You were one of the best things I have ever done.”

Mrs. Rosen enjoyed playing Scrabble, cheering for the Eagles, and watching The Young and the Restless. She organized the Chick-Lits Book Club, traveled the world before and after she married, and was especially drawn to Poland, the land of her ancestors.

“She did things other teachers didn’t do,” her husband said. “And once we realized our differences could be assets to be pooled, as a team we could do anything.”

In addition to her husband and daughter, Mrs. Rosen is survived by other relatives.

Services were Aug. 21.

Donations in her name may be made to the nonprofit animal shelter ACCT Philly, Attn: Development, 111 W. Hunting Park Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19140.