Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Rosalie Heller



Honored November, 1989

Rosalie Heller

Her music professors at Brooklyn College were not happy when Rosalie Heller informed them that she wanted to head west.

"They thought it was a musical wasteland--nobody to play music with and nobody to listen. My professors felt that I wouldn't be able to fulfill my potential," she said.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1931, the daughter of Faye and Martin Liebschutz, Rosalie grew up with her brother, Arthur, five years her senior. "He was very important in my life. The first time I heard the Brahms's First Symphony he was playing it on his record player," said Rosalie. "I was just a little tiny girl. I thought it was the most wonderful sound I had ever heard in my life. My mother played the piano. She gave me my first music lessons. We had a big upright piano and a stool that turned."

Rosalie's big brother was also very interested in science. "The day the news was released that the atom bomb had been dropped, Arthur came running inside with a newspaper and said, 'They've split the atom. They dropped the bomb, and they built it in Los Alamos--the Secret City,"' said Rosalie. "My romantic self said, 'I want to go there. I want to live there,' and that began my love affair with Los Alamos."

During her youth in Brooklyn, Rosalie studied piano with a number of teachers. At the age of sixteen, she began to teach piano herself while attending James Madison High School.

Rosalie was pursuing a degree in music at Brooklyn College when she met Leon Heller, a physics major. After Rosalie graduated, she married Leon in 1952 and moved to Ithaca, New York, to do graduate work.

The Hellers moved to Los Alamos in 1956, and raised two sons and a daughter: Peter, Anthony, and Jean. "It was like a dream come true," Rosalie remembers. "I had read everything that I could get my hands on about Los Alamos--there wasn't too much at that time, but what I read fascinated me. I arrived in Los Alamos and loved it.

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes