Miami ‘pioneer’ Rose Gordon, former two-term city commissioner, dies at 95

 

crabin@miamiherald.com

Roslyn “Rose” Gordon, who parlayed a love for real estate into several years of public service and whose name now adorns the pension board building for Miami’s general employees, died in her daughter’s Pinecrest home Sunday after a long illness.

She was 95.

Gordon was born in New York in 1918, the daughter of an Asbury Park, N.J. tailor. It was there she would later meet her husband, Alexander Gordon, when the two were hotel workers. They married before moving to Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road area where they had a daughter and two sons. The couple bought some properties before moving to Miami where Gordon began what would turn into a 50-year career in real estate.

While growing her company, the family moved to Coconut Grove after Miami Mayor Steve Clark appointed Gordon to the city’s zoning board in 1964. When Athalie Range left her City Commission seat in 1972, Gordon was chosen to fill it. She served as a commissioner in Miami until 1978 and was the third woman ever elected in Miami after pioneers Alice Wainright and Range.

In 1979, she lost the mayoral race to incumbent Mayor Maurice Ferre but was named president of the Miami Board of Realtors.

About that time, she also became chair of the city’s pension board for its general employees and sanitation workers. Today that building, on South Dixie Highway in Coconut Grove, is named The Rose Gordon Building.

“She was a pioneer. She spearheaded a lot of stuff, like the Minibus in downtown Miami,” said her son Mel Gordon. The Minibus, created to move shoppers around downtown’s retail district, was the forebearer of the city’s Metromover.

Merrett Stierheim, who became Miami-Dade’s county manager in 1976, said he often ran into Gordon at functions, or in his dealings with the city.

“She was a very prominent lady, personable and articulate,” he said.

As the years passed, Gordon continued her involvement in real estate and began to travel. Her daughter Gail Chepenik and son Mel Gordon fondly recall a family vacation to Gibraltar in 2000 for the millennium. As the family scampered onto a bus, they noticed a monkey staring at a large bag Rose Gordon was holding. Within seconds, the monkey had grabbed the bag, ran off the bus and climbed a tree.

“She went chasing it up the tree,” said Chepenik, noting her mother was 81 at the time. “Eventually a park ranger got the monkey down,” and the bag was recovered, she said.

Chepenik said her mother died in her home after an 18-month bout with pneumonia.

“She was such a fighter,” said Chepenik.

Gordon was buried Monday at Mt. Nebo Memorial Gardens in North Miami Beach. She leaves behind three children, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

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