The Beet Lady is Grandma Rose!
One of the iconic shots from the Cleveland Press Collection, one that we have used often in displays and our Cleveland Memory Project, is “The Beet Lady,” shown here. There’s something really charismatic about her and people always respond to this picture. But for the past decade since we came across it, we’ve known nothing more than what you see. Today, however, she has a name: Grandma Rose Thomas! There’s great joy around the library as a result of this discovery.
The news came as a result of the photo being run in Cleveland Magazine. Grandma Rose is now deceased, but a close family friend called to give them a report, which was passed on to us today.
Grandma Rose was a young widow from Lebanon who came to America in her 20s, about a century ago. Here she met her husband, Al, peddling sundries in Pennsylvania. They were poor and slept in barns at one point before moving to Cleveland. Here they were running a couple of produce stands at the West Side Market when this photo of Rose was taken in 1947. Her husband died young and Rose and their daughter Elizabeth lived in Parma, where Elizabeth worked as a secretary and Rose tended her garden and cooked. Rose died in 1975, at the age of 89.
The family friend saw this photo of Rose in Cleveland Memory some years ago and again when it appeared in a book about Cleveland. Then she showed it to Elizabeth, before she died. When it turned up again in Cleveland Magazine, she decided to tell them who the woman was. We are all very happy to put a name next to this remarkable face.