“Despite our tragedy and everything we've gone through, God has blessed us with wonderful people who continue to show their support to us and to my husband's memory. Our Valley has amazing people,wonderful supportive businesses and our local law enforcement agencies have shown us the true meaning of the word 'brotherhood,'” she said. “I don't ever want people to feel sorry for us, because I know with God's help we will be okay."
In January 2010, she returned to school in order to finish her Bachelor’s in nursing, but laid those plans aside when Robert’s mother became ill so that she could help take care of her until her death. It was the right thing to do, she believed. And while nursing has always be an important part of her life, she has remained a stay-at-home mom as she attempts to give the kids as normal a life as possible.
The task would be impossible without the help and support of her parents and family, she admitted. They willingly babysit the children whenever she needs to address foundation business, or just take a break. And her sisters, who’ve always been her best friends, are the perfect confidants when she needs a sympathetic ear.
“I have put my nursing career on hold for now,” she explained. “The scarring my children have from my husband’s murder will affect them for their entire lifetime. So they are my full-time job now. They need me one hundred percent to help them grow up secure and full of faith.”
This hasn’t been easy with their many, many questions and “whys,” she said. Their days are full of her recounting stories of their daddy, things he would say, his love for them and trying to explain to a three and four-year-old why they have to grow up without him.
At the same time, she is acutely aware that her duty is to raise the kids in the same manner Robert would want – with a strong work ethic, community spirit and a sense of humility.
“Robert never had anything handed to him,” she said. “I don’t want our kids to ever think they’ll have everything handed to them.”
Meanwhile, the honors and recognition ceremonies keep rolling in. Most recently, the El Centro city council voted to name a new memorial park after Robert. She and the kids have traveled around the United States including Washington, D.C. several times, San Diego and Orange County where dignitaries, legislative representatives and ranking law enforcement officers bestow their accolades.
With the help of close family, friends, and Robert’s cousins, Rosalie established the Robert W. Rosas Jr. Memorial Foundation as a safe depository for all money collected from various fundraising activities. The Campo station has established an Annual Robert W. Rosas Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament, and the proceeds go to the foundation. Also, El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents have led a football tourney to raise funds for the foundation. To date, thousands of dollars in scholarships have been awarded to needy high school seniors who are hand-picked as exemplifying Robert’s integrity and work ethics.
“The foundation is a way to honor Robert and his memory,” she said.
Another main event near to Rosalie’s heart is an annual softball tournament established in his name that is held in the Valley each year. Local players and law enforcement teams from far and wide — nearly 300 players — come in to play in the spring tourney. So many come, she said, that they have had to turn away teams because there are not enough fields in the Valley to accommodate everyone.
“That is where my love is, because that was where his first love was, softball,” she said.
In the meantime, Kayla and Matthew have become quite the travelers.
“People go out of their way to honor my husband,” she said. “The least we can do is attend the ceremonies. I have tons of pictures (of their travels).”
In the fall of 2009, she received a phone call from Michael Conner, president of the Border Patrol Foundation, a national, non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to providing emergency resources for the families of fallen officers while creating a better understanding of security provided at American borders. What he told her astounded both of them.
After years of delays with considering and negotiating the formation of a much-needed foundation for the families of slain Border Patrol officers, Conner and other dignitaries met and signed the final paperwork in Phoenix on July 23, 2009 – the exact day that Robert was killed.
The coincidence apparently shook Conner to the core, but it was not as unexpected for Rosalie who has learned none of them were really in control of the events of their lives, she said.
In November 2009, just a few months after Robert’s death, she was invited to speak at the Foundation’s first annual recognition dinner. To her surprise, her simple speech left the audience of nearly 100 people in tears. The all-male board of directors realized her viewpoint could provide invaluable help, and asked her to join the board as its sole female member. Although she declined for several weeks, the directors assured her the post would not take her away from the children, so she finally agreed. Her message is an important one.
“I feel that our tragedy has not only helped us have a better appreciation for life, but also deep appreciation and gratitude for all the men and women who serve our country: military, fire and law enforcement. Because they too step out each day and face the same risks my husband did,” she explained. “They put their lives on the line each day for all of us.”
“My kids have learned to spot them quickly,” she went on. “And if we are close enough, we simply thank them for their service. It might be the last thank you they get before their life is sacrificed just like Robert’s.”
On the 23rd of every month, she, Matthew and Kayla visit the cross in the desert marking where Robert was killed, not to grieve, but to thank God for bringing them through another month, she said.
“As they grow older, I want them to be able to go to that cross out there and not be angry that they don't have their dad,” she said. “Instead of having bitterness in their hearts, I want them to remember they often visited the cross with me, and they helped decorate it, and that they would even play nearby it.”