Retiree Spotlight

Meet Rose Manning

One thing many people cite as something they want to do when they retire is travel. But for Warner-Lambert retiree Rose Manning, traveling to Alaska wasn't just a great vacation experience. It actually became a journey to a whole new life.

Rose Manning (then Rose Cygan) started working with Parke-Davis in Ann Arbor, MI, in 1966. After retiring from Warner-Lambert in 1999 she worked part time with Esperion Therapeutics, which was later purchased by Pfizer.

After leaving Esperion, Rose cruised to Alaska. She fell in love with the area and just knew she would want to return there. And so she did!

Rose accepted a volunteer position at Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka. "I worked for room and board and had a wonderful time," she recalls. At the end of the semester she returned to Michigan but missed Sitka so very much that she returned soon thereafter. "Housing was in short supply then, so I house sat, dog sat and boat sat until an apartment became available," noted Rose.

Today Rose keeps busy by volunteering at the garden at the Russian Bishop's House "whenever there is a cruise ship in port and it is not raining too hard," she explains. Sitka enjoys 92 inches of rainfall each year!

"Playing the role of a gardener of Russian/Tlingit descent, I tell visitors about the garden, which started in 1844. The garden experienced two years of crop failure until the Tlingits taught the Russians to use herring eggs, seaweed and fire pit ash as fertilizer," said Rose. Today, kindergartners plant the garden in May and return as first graders to harvest the yield.

Rose speaks to about 50 visitors an hour about the garden and encourages them to also tour the building with its rich Russian history. The Bishop's House is home to the oldest, still operating, Russian Orthodox chapel in North America. It was built with cold weather architecture, designed to withstand extreme temperatures during Siberian winters.

The clothing Rose wears during her tours was made at Fort Ross, California, which was another Russian Fort site in America along with one in Kauai, Hawaii.

Besides her volunteer work at the Russian Bishop's House, every Tuesday and Thursday morning Rose volunteers at the White Elephant resale/recycle shop, which was started 52 years ago by local women. Most items in the shop sell for $1-$2. The shop brings in about $100,000 per year, which is returned to the community in scholarships and grants. Rose noted, "It is an important service to the community because we have to pay to have all our trash hauled off the island. The more we recycle the better for everyone."

Rose explained that sometimes when she sorts donations, a roasting pan will still have chicken bones in it. Or a coffee pot will still be warm because the ferry is coming and folks are packing in a hurry. And if something doesn't fit in the car, it is left behind.

The shop accepts donations of clothing, small appliances and books. "The efforts of 72 volunteers make this enterprise possible. This is a wonderful town."

And the view isn't bad, either! To get a glimpse of the view from Rose's kitchen window, go to and search on the words, "Sitka Webcam."

For more stories on retiree volunteers, visit the Volunteer Opportunities page.

Click here to see Rose Manning's photo gallery.

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