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Hy Rosen in 2007.

Star Tribune file,

Obituary: Feeding the poor was life's work for Hyman Rosen

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS
  • Star Tribune
  • March 8, 2012 - 11:20 PM

Hyman Rosen maintained his passion for feeding the poor in north Minneapolis until the day he died.

Rosen, 87, of St. Louis Park, the head of the Greater Lake Country Food Bank, which he co-founded in 1980, died Feb. 21 from an apparent heart attack.

Rosen was well-connected with politicians and business people and recruited hundreds of food bank volunteer, said Jim Ramstad, a former U.S. congressman and co-founder of the food bank.

"Hy Rosen had only one gear, and that was high," Ramstad said. "Nothing else could slow him down. When I say he had a passion to help suffering people, that's not rhetoric, that's reality. He literally worked until his heart gave out."

As soon as Rosen emerged from surgery after a heart attack a month ago, he wanted to call the food bank and get back to work, said his son Stan Rosen, who added that feeding the poor "was a round-the-clock thing with him."

"My dad never met somebody he didn't ask if they would volunteer. Even in the hospital, he asked nurses to help feed the hungry," Stan Rosen said. "Anybody who helped with the food bank was family to him." He said his dad was meeting in his apartment with food bank people an hour before he died and had ignored pleas from friends and family to retire.

Greater Lake Country, the state's largest independent food bank, has focused on low-income seniors for the past decade, during which it has delivered food to 38 Hennepin County senior high-rises twice a month, Ramstad said. He said last year that the food bank provided $2.4 million worth of food to 3,500 people.

One of those Rosen recruited eight years ago was Lisa Anderson, 46, now acting chief executive of the food bank, at 554 8th Av. N. She said dozens of people have written notes of thanks and shared memories of Rosen.

"I can't believe all the lives he touched," she said. She said she'll remember the short, round Rosen coming to work in his sweater, suspenders and khaki pants with his paper-stuffed briefcase and black book full of names and numbers. The book is a treasure trove of resources she has put into an electronic database. Rosen recruited her when she came for food once and she began helping feed others. Then she cooked for the special Easter and Christmas trips that Rosen, often with grown kids in tow, made to the senior buildings.

"We call it the gold handcuffs," she said. "He'd say 'Why not try it one time?' You come to an event and see all the people needing help, and you get locked in. He constantly calls you to help out again, just one more time."

Rosen who grew up in north Minneapolis, used to give food to the poor at his Plymouth Avenue grocery before he began working for Minneapolis' Pilot City poverty program. He won many honors, including the Park Board's Martin Luther King "Living the Dream Award."

In addition to his son Stan, Rosen is survived by his wife of 66 years, Shirley; daughter Sandra of St. Paul, son Larry of Plymouth, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283

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