December 4, 1924 – June 29, 2020
Rosemary Basta was born to Joseph and Catherine Basta, December 4, 1924, in Walla Walla, Washington, where she and her ten siblings grew up on an onion farm. Joseph and Catherine spoke Italian on the farm but discouraged their children from speaking it in order that they may better assimilate into English speaking America. As a result, Rosemary understood Italian but could not speak it. The great depression hit the Basta family hard and Rosemary grew up poor. She admired her maternal grandmother Rosaria Gallo who, though illiterate, would routinely stand up to her father, the Don. This was something others in the family were reluctant to do.
Rosemary graduated from high school Valedictorian and won a four-year scholarship to a Catholic college for women - which she turned down. By the time Rosemary had graduated from high school, she was ready for a change. And so she left home and moved into a run-down apartment building on First Hill in Seattle with her two sisters Vicky and Raffy. Her plan was to attend the University of Washington, but before she could do so she needed to earn some money. She managed to get a job at Arthur Murray dance school as a dance instructor. There she met her future husband Robert Davis, also a dance instructor at Arthur Murray. She eventually scraped together enough money for tuition and enrolled at the UW where she majored in English.
Early on Rosemary had a bit of rebellious streak and this was reflected in her reading habits. According to Robert, when he first met Rosemary she was purposefully working through the Catholic Index. It was one of the things that drew Robert to Rosemary. He admired her independence and willingness to think for herself. Rosemary’s desire for change extended to her choice in a husband. She was drawn to Robert in part because he was neither Italian nor Catholic, but a blue-eyed, blonde descendent from a long line of free thinkers. Rosemary informed her parents of the marriage only after the fact and in a letter.
Rosemary and Bob married in 1950. Like many women of that era, Rosemary dropped out of school in order to raise a family. She and Robert had three children: Scott, Gina, and Dominica. In 1954, the family moved into a home in Ballard where they lived for 20 years.
After the children had grown up and left home, Rosemary returned to the University of Washington to finish her degree English. She then took a job with the State of Washington where she worked as a supervisor for 17 years.
Rosemary had aspirations of becoming a writer. Late in life, she enrolled in a writing workshop at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. It was here that her instructor encouraged her to “write what she knew." Rosemary returned to her childhood for inspiration. She wrote a short story called “Walla Walla Onions” that her instructor liked very much, and held up as an example of good writing to the other students in the class. Encouraged, Rosemary made many more attempts to write but never managed to get anything published.
The family home in Ballard was always full of books and music, but there was no bible. Other than weddings and funerals, the family never went to church. There was never prayer in the house, and never was a biblical verse cited for moral guidance. This was not a decision made on principle. At the time, the church held no appeal. Late in life, Rosemary came to regret not having religion in the house. She believed that her children and her marriage would have fared better with the help of religion. She eventually grew nostalgic about the Catholic church of her childhood. More than anything it seems, she liked the trappings of the church: its rituals, the masses, and the social cohesion it engendered.
At the very end of Rosemary’s life, she developed dementia, as did Robert. And so after 30 years of separation, they moved into Norse Home in Ballard together. To the surprise of some, it worked rather well. Even though both their memories were failing, they were able to support one another, with one remembering what the other forgot, and both forgetting past grievances.
Rosemary will be remembered as someone who always tried to do the right thing, if not always succeeding. She was kind, warm, and accepting. Nearly everyone who knew her liked her. She will be missed.
As per her request, Rosemary was cremated. Her cremated remains were inurned at Cedar Lawns Memorial Park and Funeral Home in Redmond, Washington. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be no funeral service. Instead family and friends will be holding a memorial online. You are invited to leave your memories of Rosemary on this page.