Donald M. Rosen, owner of a successful group of car dealerships and a committed supporter of Jewish organizations in Philadelphia and Israel, died in his home on Oct. 18 at the age of 81, surrounded by family.
According to his eldest daughter, Lynne Rosen, that’s how he spent his life, too. Her father’s “incredible ethic of family,” she said, was perhaps his defining feature, and the one that’s been passed down to his children and grandchildren.
“He especially enjoyed seeing the family grow, spending time with new babies and attending graduations and weddings,” the Rosen family said in a statement. “If there was a celebration, Don was involved, and wanted everyone to have a great time together. He was well known for planning the most elaborate celebrations, always the life of the party which included surprises to entertain his guests.”
Rosen was born in Philadelphia on Nov. 1, 1938, to Reuben and Tallu Rosen. The Temple graduate made his way to the automobile business in 1979, when he opened up his first dealership, selling the car with which his name would come to be most closely associated: Cadillacs. Rosen’s name was followed by “Cadillac” and other vehicle brands for so long that Philadelphia-area car buyers could be forgiven for thinking that he and his wife had chosen to hyphenate.
Rosen’s first wife, Debra (Gaye) Rosen, died of cancer in 1989; together, they had five children. Rosen met his second wife, Roni (Pomerantz) Rosen, at a party on the Jersey shore, and they were married for 23 years. Together, they raised her two children from a previous marriage. Brett Pomerantz, who ended up working for his stepfather, remembers how odd it seemed that his mother was dating Don Rosen.
“My neck kind of snapped back,” Pomerantz recalls. “I go, ‘Car guy, Don Rosen? Like, Don Rosen Don Rosen?’”
Rosen’s larger-than-life personality, as Lynne Rosen describes it, preceded him.
“He just had this presence,” she said. “When he walked into a room, you knew he was walking into a room … His playfulness, his ability to make people laugh. He just wanted to make people happy. And he’d go to great lengths to do that.”
One method that never failed to delight the family was when Rosen would put on a goofy costume; one recent turn as an Eagles cheerleader, according to Brett Pomerantz, was particularly memorable.
“He was not a good-looking woman,” Pomerantz said with a laugh. “And he owned it, and like, loved it.”
At his 70th birthday, all the attendees dressed up as different versions of Don Rosen.
“We may not be the life of the party in the way that Dad was,” Lynne Rosen said, “but there’s ways that we have that kind of enthusiasm in life that he passed along.”
Rosen loved to travel with his family, and was a regular in Ventnor, New Jersey, and Jupiter, Florida. On a family trip to Israel to celebrate his contributions to Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, the Rosen family ran into boxer and senator of the Philippines Manny Pacquiao at a mall, who took a picture with Don Rosen, as Brett Pomerantz frames it.
Rosen dedicated himself to a lifetime of support for Jewish causes. His father and uncle established the Maurice and Ruben Rosen Solid State Institute Building at Technion in 1976, and Rosen stayed involved with Technion for decades.
Over the years, Rosen has supported the Abramson Center for Jewish Life (where he was a board member), the American Technion Society, JAFCO Jewish Children’s Village, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and many other charitable organizations.
His warm personality was found in that arena as well; at a charity golf tournament that he organized, Rosen was torched on the course by none other than golf legend Jack Nicklaus, who let everyone to whom he’d given helpful tips know that Rosen was beyond help. That story was one that Rosen was happy to tell over and over.
Rosen is survived by his wife, Roni; his children, David, Lynne, Julie, Daniel and Donna; his stepchildren, Blair and Brett; 12 grandchildren; one great-grandson; and several nieces and nephews.