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Dave Rose helped make the Alaska Permanent Fund what it is today, and even after his death, his words are shaping discussion of what the fund of the future will look like.
New memoir describes history of Alaska Permanent Fund and life of first executive director Dave Rose 021809 NEWS 2 CCW Editor Dave Rose helped make the Alaska Permanent Fund what it is today, and even after his death, his words are shaping discussion of what the fund of the future will look like.

Hear Charles Wohlforth and Fran Rose discuss Dave Rose and the Permanent Fund

Interview on KINY with Peter Cairn: Monday, Feb. 23 at 10:30 a.m.
Interview on KTOO with Jeff Brown: Monday, Feb. 23 at 3 p.m.
Talk and book-signing at Rainy Retreat Books, 113 N. Seward St.: Tuesday, Feb. 24 from 4-6 p.m.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Story last updated at 2/18/2009 - 11:39 am

New memoir describes history of Alaska Permanent Fund and life of first executive director Dave Rose

JUNEAU - Dave Rose helped make the Alaska Permanent Fund what it is today, and even after his death, his words are shaping discussion of what the fund of the future will look like.

The first executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund, Rose's life and the life of the Fund are two parts of the same book, "Saving for the Future: My Life and the Alaska Permanent Fund," by Rose as told to Charles Wohlforth.

The book's beginning chapters describe a childhood of modest means, with small hints of the financial acumen that would eventually help Rose become one of the key figures in the development of Anchorage and all of Alaska.

Rose's story begins: "I was a small Jewish kid with a round face and horn-rimmed glasses sitting in the back of a Catholic church in Queens Village, waiting for mass to end so I could get into the gym and shoot baskets, maybe win a little money playing basketball. No one would have picked me out as a kid who would help build Alaska."

Rose's journey takes him to college, where he meets his wife Fran, then into the army, which leads him to Alaska, where he leaves his mark in the worlds of the military, politics and finance

The memoir is both Rose's life story and an insider's view of the history of how the Alaska Permanent Fund was established. Charles Wohlforth, Rose's coauthor, said the powerful story could appeal to any readers interested in the life of a pivotal figure.

"If I had to draw one moral (from the book), it would be how a positive, optimistic personality can shape a life and a place, how just a guy from his background could go to becoming a founding father of Anchorage and (the entire state)," Wohlforth said. "It's a very empowering kind of story. I think the reason he was successful is, as he said in his preface, just the opportunities that exist in Alaska - and the opportunities he created for himself."

Wohlforth, a freelance writer and author of "The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change," knew Rose first as a friend of his father Eric Wohlforth, who served as Commissioner of Revenue under former Gov. William Egan. He previously assisted former Gov. Walter Hickel in writing his memoir, so Rose approached him to help with writing his own.

When they began the project in December of 2004, Rose was already in poor health. He died in the spring of 2006, eight years after being diagnosed with diabetes.

"He minimizes his health problems in the book," Wohlforth said. "He really wanted to write the book before he passed away. It ended up being a yearlong project of fairly high speed to do something like this. He was able to read and approve the final chapters when he was lying in ICU, essentially on his deathbed. He did get to go through every bit of it and make sure it was everything."

The book began with discussions between Rose and Wohlforth about what the book was going to be about, resulting in an outline. Using the outline as a guide, Wohlforth then carefully interviewed Rose, rewrote the interview in tight prose and checked the manuscript with Rose to make sure it was exactly what he wanted to say, Wohlforth said.

"You might think you would take a transcript and turn it into a book (but) the way we speak and the way good, tight prose is written is very different," Wohlforth said.

Each day the two men would sit down for three or four hours in the morning and record Rose's words.

"In the case of working with Dave Rose I had a couple of big advantages," Wohlforth said. "He's a terrific storyteller and he had all these great anecdotes about his life. Through the process of talking I was able to get a feel for his voice and how he liked to express himself. When it got back to him he had pretty few changes."

Rose had originally begun the project with his friend Nancy Gross, but she passed away before the book could be written. Wohlforth had access to all of Gross's interviews and Rose's personal files, which he then augmented with interviews of his own. Although Rose is the narrator of the book, Wohlforth conducted a great deal of research to verify and supplement Rose's memories.

Wohlforth said he began with an "idealized version" of his father's friend, but quickly developed a fuller understanding of Rose - who at the same time was realizing some things about his own life that he hadn't reflected on before.

"I felt like I had a really good idea of what made him tick and what the formative events of his life were," Wohlforth said. "It's kind of like a therapy session - you're asking some very intimate questions. Dave wasn't a super introspective person - he was really a doer.

"I think he had some realizations in his life he hadn't thought about. One of the major themes that came up in the book was how losing his father so early effected how he lived his life ... his ambition... and also his relationship with his own son. The fact that that happened all in the last year of his life makes it really poignant."

Although Rose's life story and the story of the Permanent Fund are contained in the same volume, the book is really two books, Wohlforth said, with two groups of readers in mind.

"The first half is really for anybody - it's a slice of life," he said. "I would think it would be of interest to Alaskans but also to anybody else. Dave was a character and a fun guy to know. The second half is getting much more into the permanent fund and public policy and finance. To me it's still fun to read but a different kind of read."

Wohlforth said the second half of the book is the first time he knows of that a complete history of the Permanent Fund has been written. At a recent forum in Anchorage on the future of the Permanent Fund in the future, Wohlforth gave a presentation on Rose's work and the book. He said audience members were very pleased that the information presented in the book was available

"Nobody has ever taken the time to tell the story of the permanent fund beginning to end," he said. "I think that's really important for Alaskan history."

Charles Wohlforth and Fran Rose, Dave Rose's widow, will be in Juneau to promote "Saving for the Future" Feb. 23-24. They will be interview at KINY Feb. 23 at 10:30 a.m. and on KTOO Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. They will give a talk and book-signing at Rainy Retreat Books on Feb. 24 from 4-6 p.m.

Katie Spielberger may be reached at editor@capweek.com


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