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Len Rosner

During a rehearsal at the Music Hall one day in September or October 1942, I was called to the phone (It was also the day I bought my first fur coat). On the phone was a distant cousin who lived in New York, Leonard Rosner, a third cousin, just one year older than myself.  My first meeting of him was at my aunt Tante’s house, on a Sunday, Nanny, Lennie's mother, came with Lennie to visit. This was in 1940, and I told him I was dancing at the American Jubilee, and he said he’d come and see it, but he never did. Finally two years later he calls and asks me out and I accept.  When I returned to the rehearsal studio, I told my pals that I had a date with “this guy”, making a not-very-complimentary comment about his lack of telephone conversational skills.  This was the beginning of a legendary relationship.  Len was a warm, intelligent, good-looking man, with questionable telephone conversational skills...a gem.  In fact, he was an excellent conversationalist when off the phone.  We married during the war, on July 20, 1944, while Len was on leave, and soon after, I left dance forever.

Life After Dance 

In the Fall of 1944 I quit dance. I went to college, took a couple of courses at NYU, then worked at Macy’s – I opened the Revlon counter (they used to just make nail polish, but then started to produce makeup.) I was the first salesgirl for Revlon there. It was the first time I ever put nail polish on my nails.

When I quit dance, I had one regret, after I left the Music Hall (I had given them a 3 or 4 months notice) they asked me to go overseas, to dance for the soldiers. I asked my mother if she’s mind if I went, and she said, no, I could go. And then I asked Len's parents, Nanny and Grandpa (I was married then), and they said that they’d rather I did not go because Lennie was overseas, and they could not handle it if anything happened to me and to him. I was living with them at the time waiting for Len to return from the war, then Nanny went down to Florida, and Grandpa and I were in the apartment. He was very good to me, he used to take me out once or twice a week, to fancy restaurants. My guess is he liked being seen with a young woman.

For me it was not hard to stop dancing. My sister had married and had had a baby, and I just felt I had had enough at that time. After all, I had started when I was thirteen. My whole life up until then was dancing. I was ready for it. I wanted to get married and have children. I had always wanted children, and so I adjusted well to not dancing. Dancing does interfer with normal life.

I missed Glady’s engagement party because I was dancing…and I felt badly about that…though I did fly home for Marty’s wedding. I called in sick when dancing at the World’s Fair, and I flew home. My father was in a nursing home, and Marty and Tsippy got married in my father’s room – they brought in a “choopah”, you know, one of those things that you put over, and 4 people hold the corners…and they were marrie,d and my father was in bed. I flew home and flew back the same day. I remember it was my first time in an airplane, and of course it was not a jet plane then, I flew home in the morning and back to New York that night, and I got sick on the plane, because I was so nervous and you know the plane was propeller driven.

For many people life after dance is different, some of them became teachers. My sister Gladys became a teacher. But I didn’t want to teach; I didn't enjoy teaching small children. I could teach at a professional level, but I couldn’t teach small girls. I was very happy to be married to Lennie, and we were living with the folks, and I was in a new DIFFERENT LIFE! Who lived the way I lived with them? Everything was paid for, no problem with money! I didn’t think I have had a hard life, basically. I never looked back – I always looked ahead. I have always been a very positive person.

Many dancers do marry people they danced with, some of them continue dancing even while they get married – there were girls at the Music Hall, one of them was married to the now president of Juilliard, and she had children, and she continued to dance. I think many who quit did regret it, but many of them stayed dancing – some of them did have children. I think it was just what they needed for themselves. I had had enough, I was a nice jewish girl; most of those girls were not jewish. Jewish girls, we all want rich husbands and things, you know.

Life with Len

Len came home in January, 1945. I worked at that time in a foundling hospital, I volunteered twice or three times a week to work with the babies. I had stopped going to college. We were first living at Nanny and Grandpa on Yellowstone Blvd, in Forest Hills. A year later, we moved to New Hyde Park, Long Island; but soon after, settled in the nearby town of Great Neck, where we lived for over 22 years. Glamorise Foundations, Inc., a foundation garment manufacturing company for which Cousin Morris was a salesman, was owned by Len’s family, and he eventually became president. Many of his bra and girdle designs were patented, including the first “sports bra” in history, and the “under-wire”. My life with Len continued to be rewarding - we brought up 5 children, who learned from us a love of life; what it means to be authentic... creative...loving…adventurous...Through the years we travelled often; the Amazon, Central America, most of Europe, Asia. Once, I was accepted as a lecturer on Ballet History and Appreciation on a Cunard cruise of the Asian Sea. Of course, Len was allowed to tag along as a dancing partner, and he had a whirl of a time dancing with the ladies, all expenses paid!

Moving On...Administrator and Businesswoman

Selma Hoffman Rosner was not only accomplished as a dancer. Her determined character also became evident in her later life. After her marriage in 1944, she turned her attention to her rapidly growing family, which eventually numbered 2 daughters, and 3 sons. While raising her children, still residing on Long Island, NY, she was active in various public organizations, and enterprises, including serving as elected president of the PTA for several years running in her children’s school system, and heading the highly successful summer day camp of the Village of Kensington, in Great Neck, New York, for 5 consecutive years. She also served for 3 years as Trustee, an elected official, and Park Commissioner, of that same incorporated village.

In 1972, when most of her children had left the family home to live independently, and after Len’s retirement from the family company, Selma and Len, with their younger daughter, moved to live in her hometown of Boston, to the town of Lexington. She found a position as secretary at the Fernauld Institute for the Mentally Retarded. It was not long before her administrative capabilities were noticed, and she was given the position of “Unit Head”. Interestingly, soon after, other employees at Fernauld protested her promotion, in view of the fact that she did not have a college degree, and she was asked to step down from the position. Within days the parents of her patients, feeling that she was doing a wonderful job, were up-in-arms, and made such a to-do, that she was reinstated and was asked to return.

But Selma was already moving on! In 1978, on a tip received from a dear old friend in Nashville, she and Len decided to make a change, and opened their first of eventually three bookshops in the Boston area. This was the forerunner of a new type of bookshop—where booklovers could trade-in their own paperbacks on a 2 for 1 ratio. It was a huge success, and subsequently they opened a second, and then a third shop. In ‘79, they sent some of their surplus overseas to Florence, Italy, where their daughter and son-in-law were opening their own bookshop. Finally, it was time to work less, and enjoy more, and one by one, the Rosners sold their shops.

In later years, they became members of the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement, and Selma’s class on Ballet History and Appreciation became a favorite among the students. It was something of an endeavour to get a seat in the classroom. She herself studied her other loves: Opera and Literature. Len would study Humor and Satire, or Haiku, or Finance. They, of course, went to the ballet, and were also avid opera buffs and attended the Met periodically. They enjoyed and frequented all the Arts. They loved antiquing, particularly pre-Columbian, and Orientalia—forming an interesting and eclectic collection of sculptures, carvings, and other artefacts of antiquity.

But above all the many interests they shared, the love they shared for each other was tantamount. Even into their 70’s, their love was still in full swing - they would still hold hands walking down the street. Their rapport was indeed something to behold...unforgettable.

Leonard died of pancreatic cancer in December, 1996. Losing her husband was perhaps her most difficult trial, but soon she pulled through. Two years later Selma moved to Boca Raton, Florida, where things have continued as before. She is always out, and about. In her club, she oversees the “Movie Night”, and is outspoken regarding the general management of the affairs of the club, having been asked several times to run for its governing body. She continues to travel, visiting her children - Mark (1947) in Boca Raton, FL; Emily (1949) in Florence, Italy; Sandy (1951) in Winston-Salem, NC; Danny (1954) in Honolulu, HA; and Mia (1962) in Lexington, MA. Selma is still the busiest lady on the block!


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