Roz had an amazing and full life. Her family life, her professional life and her involvement in business and her community were all undertaken with the same dedication and focus on “doing good”. Roz could always be counted on to see the good in people. She worked in all of her activities to make the world a little better.
She was born in the Bronx, New York on May 19, 1921. Her parents were both immigrants from Eastern Europe who had seen their share of hardship and braved difficult travels across Europe from Lithuania and Ukraine to arrive in the US with little more than what they could carry on their backs. Her father, Louis Glantz, died within a few months of Roz’s birth, leaving her mother Ida to manage alone in a new country. Working in a garment factory for 12 hours a day, Ida was forced to give Roz to foster care which defined the first five years of her life. At age 6, she came back to live with her mother.
Roz told stories of growing up in the Bronx always with a roller skate key around her neck and constant skinned knees. She roller skated everywhere she needed to go. By the time of the 1939 Worlds Fair, she was dating and the world of New York was hers. After graduating high school at age 16, Roz attended Hunter College and four years later received a Bachelor of Arts degree in social work. At Hunter, one of her friends introduced her to Sy Gurlitz and they were soon married. Roz worked at several jobs through college, and after graduation found a position with the City of New york in her chosen field social work.
World War II took Sy away for four years. Throughout and after the war Roz was working as a social worker in New York primarily with returning veterans helping them re-adjust to civilian life and finding them employment. In 1946 Roz and Sy moved out of New York City to Rockland County and in 1947 had their first son, Josh. In 1951, their second son Richard. In 1953 they built a house designed by Sy – a just graduating architect.
In 1956 Roz went back to school and got a Masters degree in teaching. For the next 25 years she taught elementary school children in 2nd through 5th grade. Those years were also filled with a rich and rewarding family life. At Thanksgivings for twenty years Roz and Sy hosted the large extended family gatherings. Ever the traveler, Roz organized trips to places she thought would enrich her family’s cultural understanding – Quebec, Mexico, Sweden, Puerto Rico, Spain.
After 25 years, Roz finally graduated from elementary school and started a third career teaching English as a Second Language to college students at Fairleigh Dickenson University. By now this was the end of the Vietnamese war and refugees were seeking asylum in this country. Roz befriended many of these students in her classes, always remarking about how brave they were and fascinating their backgrounds and history. Her help for these new immigrants frequently extended beyond the classroom.
Sy passed away suddenly in 1985. It was very difficult for Roz – alone in New York while her children had started lives in Chapel Hill. In 1988 she made the move to Fearrington Village in Chatham County. Almost on arrival, she started volunteering with Chatham County’s family mediation as a social work mediator, helping families navigate through difficult times. She could also be seen every holiday season volunteering with Hadassah wrapping presents. For several years in the mid 1990’s, Roz coordinated the Chapel Hill Chapter of the United Nations advocates.
Volunteering was interspersed with trips rafting down the Amazon, seeing the Great Migration in Tanzania, taking her grandchildren to London and Paris, and always being an involved grandma.
Eclipsing her accomplishments and adventures, however, Roz’s joy of living, steady moral compass and dedication to enriching the lives of those around her are her lasting legacy.
Roz is survived by her two sons and their wives, Josh and Robin Gurlitz and Richard and Carey Gurlitz of Chapel Hill. Three grandchildren and their wives – Rachael and Phil Ratner of New York City, Meghan and Jameson Holden of Chapel Hill and Ben and Sarah Gurlitz of Raleigh. Three grandchildren Jay and Alex Ratner and Charlie Holden.
A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday February 20, 2022 at Judea Reform Congregation Cemetery, 2560 Jones Ferry Road, Chapel Hill, NC.