On July 18, 2018, Rose Azar passed from this earth after spending the last of her days at UNC SECU Hospice in Pittsboro, where she said good-bye to many of her friends and family, who were grateful that Rose’s passing was pain-free. The family are also grateful to the staffs of UNC Hospital and Hospice for their caring treatment and for providing a peaceful environment for Rose, her family and friends.
Rose Connell was born to James and Mary Connell on January 20, 1928, although the doctor didn’t arrive to sign (or date) her birth certificate until the next day. She grew up as one of seven siblings in an Irish Roman Catholic family in Jersey City, New Jersey during the Depression, which meant scarcity and crowding for them. When World War Two followed, Rose and her siblings did their part. Her brothers old enough to serve, served, and her first job was with the American Red Cross packing scarves and gloves for people in Europe. Life was also Church, school, books – Rose was never far from a book – and outings to the beach most summers. Rose was among the first of her peers to receive a college degree, from Caldwell College, now Caldwell University.
Rose worked as an administrator for the residency program at New York Hospital, where she had a strict rule of never dating the doctors. One doctor, Henry Azar, proved an exception and proposed marriage on their first date. Thus began the great adventure of Rose’s life, through an on-again, off-again courtship of seven years, a marriage of almost 50 years, and two sons, Henry Jr. (“Rick”) and Philip. Rose and Henry were married in Beirut in 1960, where the only person she knew was Henry’s niece Rosemarie, with whom she became friends for life. Rose and Henry returned for a sabbatical a few years later, traveling with their boys by freighter from Brooklyn to Genoa, Italy, then driving from there to Beirut. Rose and Henry went on to live in New York, Kansas, and Florida. Along the way, Rose received her teaching certificate and taught second graders for nine years in Tampa. After facing her first bout with a brain tumor, she prudently transitioned away from the stress of second-graders.
In 1992, the adventure moved to Chapel Hill, where Henry pursued his Ph.D. in the history of medicine, and Rose participated in and helped run Shared Learning and also volunteered at the Newman Center. She and Henry often hosted their sons and grandsons, Sean and Ryan, at the Outer Banks. After Henry died, Rose moved to Carolina Meadows, where she continued to participate in Shared Learning and the Newman Center, and also enjoyed a dinner group, going to movies, and occasionally watching soccer with Phil and some of his friends. In later years, Rose developed an especially strong bond with her older brother Tom, with whom she spoke daily.
Throughout it all, Rose kept her faith in the religion that had helped raise and educate her, which didn’t keep her from asking questions great and small and often answering them in unexpected ways. At the end of 90-plus years, at UNC Hospital and Hospice, Rose had the consolation of her family, her many friends, and her rosary with all that it represented. Two large brain tumors ended her life, but not her faith, her kindness, or her sweet disposition.
Toward the end, Rose enjoyed hearing Poe’s Annabel Lee read to her, including this additional, recently edited verse:
There are not oh so many of us here by your sepulcher by the sea.
On the other side of the sea, there are oh so many
Mark and Ruth and Mary and John and Jim and Tom
Kevin and Patrick, and Moira and Jean-Marie,
Kellers and Nortons,
Henry, sister Rose, Adele, Antoine, Nina and Anita,
And yet more relatives and friends by the sea.
And they love you oh so much.
And now it is on us to survive and thrive and celebrate
And remember your beautiful memory.
And remember your beautiful memory.
Rose is survived by her sons, her grandsons, her sister-in-law Irene, daughter-in-law Maureen, Rosemarie, and her many nieces and nephews in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East.
Funeral arrangements have been made through Hall-Wynne in Durham. A funeral mass will be held for Rose at the Newman Center in Chapel Hill on Friday, July 27, at noon, with a burial at approximately 2:45 in Maplewood Cemetery in Durham. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Ivymount School, in Rockville, Maryland, where Rose’s grandsons attended; to anera (American Near East Relief Aid); or to the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina, for those who want to give closer to home.