Allen “Rocky” Rosen may be gone, but his significant impact on his community and family can never be erased. From founding a camp to helping Russian families immigrate to the United States to helping people live healthy lives into his 90s, Rosen inspired and helped generations of people.
The longtime JCC fitness instructor, teacher, philanthropist and great-grandfather passed away on Saturday, Jan. 31, at the age of 91.
“He just took the time for everybody all the time,” said Lynn Rosen-Stone, his daughter who is fitness supervisor at the Owings Mills JCC. “It was never just, ‘Hi, how are you?’ It was, ‘Let me see how I can help you.’ He was just full of love and compassion for everybody.”
Following in Rosen’s footsteps, Lynn’s sister, Karyl Rosen, is a JCC fitness instructor, and her daughter, Kenzie, manages Anytime Fitness in Lutherville.
Paul Lurie, vice president of fitness, recreation and aquatics at the JCC, said Rosen was a fixture, having worked there for more than 60 years.
“He had a passion in life for helping people and making them better,” Lurie said. “He really was an icon of the kind of people we like to have on staff and the kind of people we like to have as members.”
Born in Philadelphia, Rosen earned his bachelor’s degree and Master of Education degree from Temple University. He played football there and was offered a tryout for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he chose to teach physical education instead. After teaching elementary and high school in Philadelphia, Rosen came to Baltimore in 1949 with his wife, Ruth, who survives him, and began teaching physical education in Baltimore City schools; he also became the youth adviser at Beth Tfiloh. He taught in city public schools for more than 30 years, mostly at Fallstaff and Pimlico elementary schools and Pimlico Junior High School.
Soon after coming to Baltimore, Rosen started working for the Jewish Education Alliance, a predecessor to the JCC. He worked as a fitness instructor and personal trainer at the JCC into his 90s. In his 80s, he began bodybuilding and won several body building championships. He also participated in the Senior Olympics, winning gold medals into his 90s.
“He really was an icon of the kind of people we like to have on staff and the kind of people we like to have as members.”
After working at Beth Tfiloh camps, Rosen was inspired to open his own camp, Camp Wonderland, which he and his wife operated on their land for more than 20 years. That same site later became home to a camp for diabetic children.
While teaching, working at the JCC and running a camp, Rosen also found plenty of time for volunteer work. He was a scout master, an adviser at B’nai B’rith, a volunteer and instructor in first aid, small-craft water safety and lifeguarding at the American Red Cross, a lieutenant in the Baltimore Civil Air Patrol and public relations chairman at the American Camping Association, and he raised money for American Red Magen David for Israel. Through the JCC, he sponsored three Russian families to help them re-establish their lives in America. He and his wife were honored by Israel Bonds.
Rosen received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the State of Maryland and was inducted into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in 2011. He also had a JCC award named after him.
“Rocky was an inspiration to everyone who ever encountered him,” JCC of Greater Baltimore president Barak Hermann wrote in a letter to members. “We will continue to honor his memory by recognizing JCC members with the Allen ‘Rocky’ Rosen Fitness Award, which honors members who exemplify Rocky’s commitment to the JCC by living a healthy lifestyle that includes a strong focus on fitness, wellness and community.”