Above: Yeoman Elizabeth B. Rozman, U.S. Navy
Article by A170 Tom Rozman
In the early 1950s the role of women as leaders and mentors in the mainstream venues for such example were much more constrained relative to the present situation. Nevertheless, courageous young women were making a difference even in this era. Some would have long reaching impact leaving a significant legacy of leaders they mentored and influenced. One of these was my father’s youngest sister Elizabeth B. Rozman. On graduation from John Fitch High School in Windsor Connecticut in 1947 she would be a trend setter.
“Aunt Betty” to myself and my 23 siblings and first cousins and “Liz” to her colleagues and friends was a remarkable woman. She was the youngest sister in a 12 sibling Catholic family of Polish origin. Her mother and father were both from what is now northeastern Poland. They had immigrated to the US before World War I.
Her father in fact with a brother walked out of Poland in 1904 as Russia was preparing for war with Japan. The regimental cantons were rounding up the young men to fill the regiments for deployment to Manchuria. It was one thing for a Pole to die fighting for Poland but quite another to die for the czar fighting Japan on the other side of the world.
But both parents had successfully adapted to the United States succeeding as small business people and building a large family. They had negotiated the Great Depression and realized the promise of America, their youngest children completing university educations. Betty’s mother, a well-read woman, had been educated to the conservatory level in Poland before coming to the United States, and for many years was the secretary of the Polish American Society headquartered in Chicago.
The young woman was also through the World War II years and earlier subject to a growing tradition in the family. Her uncle Walter Duma, her mother’s sister’s husband, originally from the Kingdom of Prussia, had served in the U.S. Army in World War I. Four of her brothers had served in the Army during World War II. Post-World War II, two of these and a fifth brother were serving in the Connecticut National Guard infantry battalion then organized in the Hartford, Connecticut area. The fifth brother would enlist in the newly formed Air Force just before the Korean War began. Two younger brothers would be entering the Army later in the 1950s.
Additionally, all four of her sister’s husbands were Army and Navy veterans. Her older sister Wendy’s husband had served in the Army in the late 1930s and while in Panama had contracted a severe case of meningitis that almost proved fatal. His following civilian career would involve many years as a newspaper editor and entrepreneur and significantly as speechwriter for the Governor of Florida. Edwin “Ted” Smiley would later play a significant mentoring role to the Navy veteran’s pursuit of her following university education. The other three sister’s husbands served during World War II, one as a crewman on the carrier USS Ranger, another with a tank battalion in the South Pacific Theater and the third with the Army Air Force in Europe.
The young high school graduate from this collective family service orientation, though all men, had a strong example of military service in her family. As she considered her prospects post high school while an employee at the Traveler’s Insurance Company in Hartford, she began to form a concept for an initial career path that not all at the time in the family were comfortable with. The very attractive young woman was considering enlisting in the Navy as the country engaged in still another war in Korea. She was demonstrating that she was in many ways a woman ahead of her times and a leader.
She had spent considerable time examining opportunities for women in the U.S. Navy and the following access to the G.I. Bill to support a later college education. After considering this option as thoroughly as possible, she made the brave decision to enlist on 28 March 1950. By October of 1950, she and three of her brothers would be in active military service with the Armed Forces of the United States, one already in theater in Korea.
She would enter naval service at the Boston Navy Yard in Massachusetts. This event was followed by her initial training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois. Over 60 years later her great grandniece Raquel Rozman would follow in her footsteps at Great Lakes serving later as a corpsman and completing her service as a petty officer before also pursuing her university level education to a baccalaureate and following masters study.
Liz Rozman would complete a very successful four year Navy career leaving the Navy as a yeoman after several years of service at the Pentagon. She would apply and be accepted to Florida State University where she would matriculate completing the requirements for a baccalaureate degree four years later. The expenses were offset by the G.I. Bill and ability to reside with her sister Wendy’s family and her brother-in-law Edwin “Ted” Smiley, a fortuitous situation in the location of the campus in Tallahassee, Florida.
Liz Rozman was already a trend setter, a leader and a quality mentor. The latter trait was manifested personally in my regard during the time she was making her decision about the Navy when as a small boy I and my brother and other cousins were led on more than one taboggan excursion by our Aunt Betty. She was fun but in charge…a favorite aunt. I again enjoyed her friendly mentoring and wise counsel in the mid 1950s and in a very focused way when she met me at the Army terminal at New York City as I disembarked from the troopship USNS General Simon B. Buckner (T-AP-123) in 1965.
She was on her summer visit from her duties as a high school guidance counselor in Tampa, Florida at her father’s residence in Wilson, Connecticut. At the time two of her younger brothers were still residing at the large renovated farmhouse, one soon to be married, the other to follow a few years later. I would be living there temporarily until beginning the fall semester at the University of Connecticut.
We stopped off at the World’s Fair in New York City, enjoying the stop very much, then continued on to Wilson. During the month Betty was at the house before returning to Florida she was a sage source of information and advice in successful job hunting and job interviews, occasional sharing of her brand new Ford Fairlane and advice about beginning a college career. And she proved on target with everything she shared. She knew what she was talking about…it was her professional area and she was very good at it.
In her post graduate professional career she taught at Hillsborough High School, Tampa School District and completed her master’s degree at the University of South Florida. After completing her masters she became a counselor in the Guidance Department of King High School in the school district rising to director of the department. She retired at 37 years with the district but continued to serve as a counselor at Hillsborough Community College. Over this career she mentored thousands of family and students many of whom went on to significant careers and leadership roles, significant among these being students she worked with that went on to the service academies. She had paid forward the mentoring she had received from Ted Smiley and other mentors.
Within the family Liz Rozman was an inspiration, example, and mentor to many of the family’s women. Several of many she influenced serve as examples and are noted below.
My wife received reinforcement and a sense of what was possible pursuing and completing her baccaleureate and masters studies and a long following professional career in the medical field becoming a senior executive. Cousin Patricia Hood would be inspired to continue on at the University of Hartford to her baccalaureate and a long career as a teacher. Niece Tirae Smiley would continue her education at North Carolina State University to complete her Juris-Doctorate and a long career as a North Carolina state prosecutor. Grandniece Melissa Rozman would graduate from the Air Force Academy serving as an Air Force officer than a long career in industry completing her MBA at the College of William and Mary. Another grandniece would complete her PhD becoming a research professor at Duke university. As previously mentioned great grandniece Raquel Rozman would follow her footsteps very closely enlisting in the Navy, training at Great Lakes Naval Training Center then completing her higher education through study for her masters.
These are several generations of the family’s women who were inspired in some way by Liz Rozman’s example, leadership, and mentoring to complete their higher education and pursue professional careers. But as with her teaching and counseling career this is again only a portion of her leadership and mentoring story. Many students at the schools she supported moved on to successful careers assisted by her wise counsel.
I personally interfaced with my Aunt Betty often by phone until her passing but a most telling aspect of the person was her flight from Florida to Ronald Reagan International Airport where I picked her up on her arrival in Summer 2008. She had made the flight to attend the funeral at Arlington of her oldest brother, Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Rozman, my father. The family was gathering from many locations and she would let nothing keep her from attending. Her “big” brother Bob had been one of her mentors over the years and she would honor that relationship by being at the funeral and reception. I for one was most honored by her initiative to come to Arlington; her presence meant a great deal to me and reinforced her role as a mentor.
Liz Rozman also became a vital part of a family when she married widower Thomas Jansen. A 38 year loving marriage followed. She became the mom for four stepchildren and grandmother to 10 grandchildren and great grandmother to 19 great grandchildren. In her role as matriarch of this large Catholic family she continued in her skilled and unique way to lead, advise and mentor. The family has prospered from her love and dedication….and most particularly from her leadership and mentoring.
Most remarkable in many ways, Liz Rozman Jansen was the most likeable of people. She was direct, honest and forthright, but never focused on the negatives…always the positives and what one could be doing to get to a better place. She had that remarkable skill of being able to tell someone they’re in trouble in a way that they liked how she said it. I only heard positives comments from anyone who was associated with or had worked with her. She was a leader who left a great legacy of following leaders.
Note 1: Obituary–Elizabeth “Liz” “Betty”Jansen, passed away September 6, 2019 of natural causes. She was one of 12 children, born November 19, 1929 to the late William and Stephania Rozman in Hartford, Connecticut during the Great Depression. Upon graduating high school, she enlisted in the Navy and served during the Korean war. After her enlistment, she moved to Tallahassee, Florida and attended Florida State University where she received a degree in Education. She taught at Hillsborough High School while getting her Master’s degree at The University of South Florida. Upon leaving Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida she became a counselor in the Guidance Department at King High School and eventually became Department Head of Guidance where she retired after 37 years. Still not quite ready to retire, she went on to counsel at Hillsborough Community College and eventually retired. Liz or Betty is predeceased by her loving husband of 38 years, Tom; sisters, Marian, Wendy and Lucille; and brothers, Robert, George, Henry, Carl and Earl. She is survived by her sister, Helen and family; brothers, Richard and Walter and their families; numerous nieces and nephews; her stepchildren, Joan (Donnie), Margaret, Mary and Chuck (Annette); 10 grandchildren; and 19 great-grandchildren. A beloved daughter, sister, aunt and friend to all, she will be lovingly remembered and will be missed. A mass will be celebrated in her memory Saturday, November 16, 2019 at St. Gertrude’s Church, 550 Matianuck Ave. Windsor, CT and burial with military honors will follow at Windsor Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Windsor, CT
Elizabeth Rozman was born into a large Polish immigrant Catholic family that was centered in Windsor, Connecticut; she was in the last quarter of a family of twelve children. She was Betty to her parents and eleven brothers and sisters; and she was Aunt Betty to her twenty-five nieces and nephews and their children. She was a special person to all of her Rozman clan. Her Rozman nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters have such fond and wonderful memories of her. She was able to touch the hearts and create relationships with all of her wide spread family who spent any time, no matter how short, in her company; and she made sure that she did have a relationship with each and every niece and nephew as well. The Rozman clan will celebrate her life and military career on Saturday, November 16, 2019, at the veteran’s cemetery in Windsor, Connecticut, where she grew up and spent her earliest years.
Note 2: Eulogy by Niece Tiare Smiley, Esq.–But Betty Rozman was a strong independent woman somewhat ahead of her times; she started a whole new life for herself in Florida, where she attended Florida State University after her military career. (I am proud to say that she credits my father, her brother in law Teddy Smiley, with her even going to college.) With her degrees in education she taught and counseled students in Tampa for thirty-seven years. She met the love of her life in Florida, Tom Jansen, and so began a whole new life and family who knew her as Liz, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Liz never gave birth to any children, but Tom was a widower with four children: Joan, Peggy, Mary and Chuck. Although she never tried to replace their mother, Liz did become their mother in every sense of the word and any “step” mother designation disappeared forever with her Jansen clan. Liz’s Jansen family is made up of not only of Tom’s four children, but now includes ten grandchildren and nineteen grandchildren (and this is not even including all the wives and husbands and assorted in-laws).
The Jansen clan celebrated Liz’s lifetime of love and family with a memorial mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Friday, November 8, 2019. As requested by Liz, her grandson Anthony gave the eulogy and another grandson Chaz read a poem; their words brought tears to the eyes of everyone present, even their own. Also participating in the service’s bible readings were grandchildren Angela, Josh and Chuck. A horde of great grandchildren also took part in remembering great gramma Liz by laying roses on the alter table where her ashes were present in a wooden chest.
Although the Tampa memorial was primarily made up of Liz’s vast Jansen family, two Rozman’s (nieces Maxine and me, Tiare) were there to witness the loving second family that our Aunt Betty, the Jansen’s Liz, created for herself in Florida. Just as all the Rozman’s each have their own special memories of their wonderful, magical Betty, it was heartwarming to hear the stories about Liz’s Florida life and see the special and loving memories about their Liz that each of the Jansen family members have of the family matriarch Liz. Both the Rozman and Jansen families can never thank Liz’s daughters Peggy and Mary enough for the loving care they gave her as she lost her formidable strength in her final months and days of life.
Through the tears and sadness left in the wake of her death (we so wanted to be able to celebrate her 90th birthday on November 19), what is mostly left are memories of her strength, her love of life and sense of humor; she was a consummate professional who was also caring and empathetic with the generations of school children she taught and mentored as well as an icon within her own two large extended families. It is somehow appropriate that the earliest memory I have of my aunt Betty is when I was 5 or 6 years old and she was also living in Tallahassee as she attended FSU; she took me to see my very first movie, of all things, the Wizard of Oz. To this day I remember the movie starting out in black and white and the tornado lifting Dorothy’s house into the air and when she came to and went outside she had landed in the Land of Oz and everything was in glorious technicolor. Betty or Liz, she was a magical lady and it can fairly be said she lived her life in technicolor.