FREMONT -- For as long as people can remember the Fremont Symphony Orchestra, they recall Susan Rose working very hard to build and promote it.
Rose, who was 72 when she died Sept. 15 from Lou Gehrig's disease, was an impassioned supporter of the arts and a devoted orchestra employee. From 2008 to July of this year, Rose served as the orchestra's general manager, overseeing its business operations. But she wore several hats for the organization for more than 40 years, doing the work of multiple people to champion Fremont's symphony, said Carole Klein, Rose's longtime colleague.
"She was tireless and supremely committed," said Klein, an orchestra musician and board member. "She put in many more hours than she was paid for."
The orchestra was on Rose's mind even in her final days. Less than two months before she died, both she and David Sloss, the orchestra's ex-music director, were let go by the Fremont Symphony Orchestra board, which cited organizational budget woes as the reason.
The decision was very unpopular among the orchestra's musicians.
Rose's final request was for her family to hold a memorial at which Sloss would conduct orchestra members at Ohlone College's Smith Center, where the musicians performed so often during her long tenure. The memorial, still in the planning stages, is tentatively scheduled for late November.
Fremont's orchestra was founded in 1963 and Rose, who was a pianist, joined it soon thereafter, said Jon Rose, her ex-husband. She soon became the face of the orchestra, serving alternately as its treasurer, secretary, board president and general manager. She produced concerts, managed budgets, coordinated marketing and fundraising campaigns and led board meetings.
"She was a guiding light of the symphony," said Jon Rose, her spouse of 28 years. "She was a true believer in culture and art in all its forms, which is getting rarer and rarer."
The organization's budget and popularity grew significantly under her watch, and the orchestra transformed from a mostly amateur group to a full professional symphony, said Sloss.
"Sue's leadership made all of those things happen," he said. "She was instrumental in pushing the orchestra to a whole new level."
Sloss described Rose as being outspoken in fighting for the orchestra, demonstrating a fierce passion for it that sometimes rubbed people the wrong way. "But it was all motivated by a real devotion she had for the cause," he said.
Rose also served eight years on the Alameda County Arts Commission and 12 years on the county's Public Art Advisory Committee, chairing both panels at different times.
In the 1990s, she spearheaded "Alameda County's 2 percent for Art Ordinance," which calls for any county capital improvement project to spend at least 2 percent of its budget on public art.
Rose, a former Fremont resident, moved to Pleasanton about a decade ago.
In addition to her ex-husband, Rose is survived by three sons, Christopher, Alexander and Nicholas Rose; two grandchildren, Jonathan and Kristine Rose; a brother, Charles "Ben" Lewis; and a sister, Linda Bryson.
The family asks that any donations in Rose's name be made to the Fremont Symphony Orchestra, P.O. Box 104, Fremont, CA 94537.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.