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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog

RoseMary Goodson: 1917 -- 2012

Linda and RoseMary in 2008 at Homestead House.

. . .
RoseMary Goodson, born 1917, died December 11, 2012 at the home of her daughter, Emily Buckhannon.

Here’s a note about what RoseMary meant to me, taken from my story about her in the September/October 2001 issue of South Dakota Magazine.

I first met RoseMary sometime in the 1970s when she often set up her easel on a street in Deadwood. Dressed in paint-spattered clothes, with her dog, paints, canvas, and a bag containing a sweater, a lunch, water, she’d spend the day downtown. She said later she was “teaching herself how to paint.” Concentrating on her work, she was unaware of the picture she presented. She gleefully tells about reaching for her water one day and discovering that passersby, thinking she was a homeless bag lady, had left a dollar and fifty cents, an apple, and a banana.

I clearly remember my first sight of that small blonde woman sitting on the street corner with her dog and her paints. I was in my thirties, recently divorced or about to be and had no idea where my life was going. I was so hesitant I probably walked by her two or three times, peering at a painting I didn’t think was very good.

But she was an older woman enjoying herself and she didn’t look worried about her future, so I stopped to talk.

Where did she live? I asked. Right now she was staying with daughter and her husband, in the “mother-in-law tent” pitched behind their house.

I was awestruck at her charm, her obvious joy in living, her unconcern with the future. Rose Mary was happier sitting on a street corner dabbing at her canvas than I’d ever been, and she has been my idol ever since. Her letters, filled with drawings and hilarious stories of her escapades -- skinny-dipping and getting lost in the desert while traveling with her children -- have followed me everywhere, making me laugh during some of my blackest hours.

During the past few years, she often painted original watercolors on the corners of the envelopes containing her letters. I found tiny frames for these and grouped them at the retreat, Homestead House. Her paintings hang throughout the house, including a copy of a Van Gogh she painted especially for the retreat house: a woman reading. During the past few years, she took photographs of her paintings, sliced them up and laminated them, added ribbons and send me hundreds of bookmarks. When I sold my books after an event, I offered one of RoseMary’s bookmarks with each purchased book.

RoseMary visited me several times at the ranch. While I was living alone in the small apartment built onto the side of my parents’ house after my divorce, she once came in the middle of winter. Lots of folks visited me in winter. They enjoyed sitting in front of the fireplace toasting their toes and talking about the romance of ranching.

RoseMary was the only visitor who ever brought in wood.

She knew, from her own days with a wood-burning stove, that fire takes fuel and toasting your toes isn’t the way to keep the fire burning. I told her that day that if she ever needed anything from me at all, she had only to call.

While she visited, she painted a picture of my gray horse, Oliver, standing at the feed rack, visible out the south window of the apartment. A few years ago, RoseMary visited again with her daughter and son-in-law Emily and Dennis. Emily had been trying to document the more than 350 paintings RoseMary had done since those early days in Deadwood and she’d never seen that one. RoseMary later made notecards of the painting and sent me a batch.

Once, on a cold dark night after George and I had built our house on top of the hill, a neighbor called to tell us that our cattle were out on the highway. We tore out of the house in such a rush we left all the lights blazing. Hours later, having finally gotten all the wandering cattle into a pasture in the dark, we drove back up the hill.

The lights were out. A strange car stood beside the garage.

Wary George drew the pistol he was never without, and we reconnoitered. The car had Arizona license plates but I couldn’t think who I might know in Arizona who would visit me in the middle of winter. Quietly we crept up the stairs and turned on the dining room light.

In the middle of the table stood a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels and a note from RoseMary. She couldn’t figure out why all the lights were on when no one was home, but she’d had a long drive so she went to bed.

About the time we finished the note, she came blinking out of the spare room.

“Well,” she said sensibly, “I figured you were around somewhere, so I waited awhile and then I went to bed. But there was no sense in leaving all those lights on and wasting electricity.”

We finished the Jack Daniels while we visited.

While she was here that time, she painted a watercolor of the ranch buildings from the top of the hill. She didn’t have a large enough piece of paper so she used two pieces -- and I was finally able to find a frame long enough to put the whole painting together.

I’ve often thought of RoseMary as I saw her first: sitting on a street corner in Deadwood, doing what she wanted and ignoring the people swirling around her. Her friendship has been a constant in my life for forty years. Her laughter and good humor buoyed me up during some of the blackest periods of my life and her joy in living inspired me to try to enjoy every moment as much as she did.

And while I do so, I will miss her.

# # #

The entire South Dakota Magazine article about RoseMary Goodson written by Linda in 2001 was posted here in the summer of 2011 in two parts, followed up with a third blog updating readers about RoseMary ten years after the magazine article. To find these archived blogs, click on "Artist: RoseMary Goodson" in the index of blog topics in the left-hand column of this webpage.

RoseMary's family will host a celebration of her life in January. They suggest:

In lieu of flowers, please honor RoseMary by doing as she did every day of her life. Take a moment to write a letter(s) or note(s) or card(s) to someone you cherish. Then send your note(s) via the United States Postal Service. Make an annotation on your missive: "Sent in honor of RoseMary Goodson." Your mail will be the ultimate tribute to RoseMary's lifelong commitment to writing letters.

Here is the link to the Baue Funeral Home obituary for RoseMary, written by her daughter and granddaughter.

You may also visit RoseMary's website www.rosemarygoodson.com to see some of her paintings.

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