At 92, Irwin Mayor Rose considers job 'an honor'
Twenty-three years old and far from his North Huntingdon home, Dan Rose, dark-haired and handsome, crouched in his plane and yanked the long wire attached to a parachute.
His B-24 Liberator bomber had been shot down over Budapest by an anti-aircraft device on July 3, 1944, during World War II.
“I still can remember,” said Rose, 92, who serves as mayor of Irwin. “If you can get out, get the hell out. It's a matter of luck. Going down fast.”
Rose, an Army Air Forces pilot and first lieutenant, was shot down on his 19th mission.
After falling into a field, he watched as his plane crashed. Then civilians marched Rose and his crew, “spitting on us, kicking us,” to a village, the beginning of his 10-month captivity as a prisoner of war before being liberated in Germany by Army Gen. George S. Patton's troops.
He remembers the imprisonment's harsh conditions: a bucket as a toilet, bedbugs, cramped quarters, hunger, fear.
An entry in his journal written in the Stalag Luft III camp lists the foods he craved: fudge, chocolate, jelly beans, mixed nuts, salted peanuts.
In a letter dated Nov. 8, 1944, he wrote to his family in Irwin: “Been spending a great deal of my time indoors reading. It's starting to get cold and dreary. But we can still pass the time playing football, and at night we have jam sessions. I'm feeling fine. Hope you are alright.”
Rose was honorably discharged Dec. 1, 1945. After returning home, he continued to serve others. He has spent 37 years on Irwin council, 25 of them as mayor.
The father of two worked as an insurance agent, retiring last year. Rose had success in the insurance industry, serving as a sales manager for Prudential.
“In the insurance business, I was completely honest,” he said.
As mayor, he oversees Irwin's 4,000 residents. Duties include giving input to council, leading the police force and serving as public relations director. To him, the job is “an honor.”
“I'm the PR man. I promote Irwin,” Rose said. “That makes me happy — meeting the people.”
In recognition of his years of service, council voted this year to rename Bell Park as Dan Rose Park. The park is along Main Street in the borough.
Borough Manager Mary Benko has worked with Rose for decades. She highlighted his public relations work in speaking about Irwin to schoolchildren and service organizations.
“He has a great love for Irwin,” Benko said. “He's been very, very active in almost every special event that happens in Irwin — you'll see Dan there. He's just a great people person.”
Rose is diligent and dedicated to his position as mayor, she said.
“He's served the residents of Irwin borough very well over all these years,” Benko said. “He just is a very caring person (and) sympathetic to people's needs.”
Rose plans to run for the position again in November.
“I love the town. I love the community,” he said. “My citizens — if I could help them, I help them.”
Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.