Rose Lee Dunn

Jan 3, 1928 - Jul 18, 2020

East Lawn Sierra Hills Memorial Park
5757 Greenback Lane
Sacramento, CA, 95841


I’ve had to make a few calls to extended family and friends and a few things stand out about my mother-in-law: she was always spunky as hell, she was the cornerstone of the immediate and extended family, glue for the beloved friends. She fiercely loved her sisters and spoke of them with great joy and admiration, her sister Norma lived next door for 20 years (not all of them peaceful but loving nonetheless).  No matter your guilt or consequence you could always find shelter and love at her home.  Pots of coffee were always at the ready for the wayward neighbor to come in and chat away.  More than one call came in the middle of the night with a Dunn at the ready to help.  

This simple girl from Shamrock Oklahoma born of Nixie Pearl McNabb and Charles Everett Workman, both southern immigrants from Missouri heading the call of the oil fields, was the matriarch of the family. Her motto was “you know right from wrong, do right”.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard this phrase and I agree Rosie, wholeheartedly.

She loved her traditions, especially Christmas.  After going through some of her belongings I came across a picture of my husband dressed in a Santa suit because in her household handing out presents were not complete without dressing for the job!  She had a full shed dedicated to just Christmas decorations, and when I say it was full I’m not kidding.  Year-round I had reminders of her joy in the family coming together for Christmas, many decorations never made it to the shed and many closets were used for overflow.   

She has been indulging in a daily Pepsi habit since 1945, the year before she graduated from Shamrock High School where she played defense for the basketball team with her best life-long friend Iris. Iris was married to Lucky and Lucky was friends with Jim.  How lucky is it to find a thoughtful kind man to marry and keep as your own and have his best friend married to your best friend. 

Rose was lucky if nothing else, but she experienced her hardships.  Her beautiful boy Gus died before the age of 1 in 1952.  That wonderful lifelong partner she called Mr. Grumpy passed at the young age of 66 in 1992.  Her handsome, popular, intelligent baby boy Jimmy born in 1953 died at the age of 59 in 2012.  The family had struggles but she kept everyone close and together even when some would decide to abandon.  She is survived by her only grandchild Mikayla and her Son Larry and of course me; her daughter in law Rae.  

 Between her undying Pepsi and Spam consumption and physical hardiness, I always believe her body would better serve our country by being studied rather than buried.  She was the very last of all her 8 siblings to get to the final journey.  She didn’t drink alcohol and didn’t smoke but she loved her convince foods, salty snacks, and Little Debbie cakes.  I would comment about the quality of her diet to my beloved husband Larry and he would say “oh, it used to be so much worse”.  Even so, her driving days ended just 5 months before she passed and quite frankly I believe this had more to do with the COVID-19 restrictions than anything else.  

She took the Sacramento Bee for all the 64 years she lived in North Highlands.  The year she purchased her home was the same year she brought her son Larry from the hospital as the last on-base delivery at McClellan Air Force Base.  She engaged in politics regularly and liked being up to date on her news. She loved the Wednesday paper, the sale adds that accompanied it and planned her outings accordingly.  She was a loyal member of the wives club of the 1155th squadron and was proud of her husband’s top-secret work repairing the NORAD communication systems around the world. She didn’t actually know what he did until the Berlin Wall fell 1990 at a 1155th reunion and his work became de-classified. She knew her neighbors and kept in touch until they died. She was like that-a community keeper.  

One of her greatest accomplishments, from the enthusiastic description of it, was her learning to drive at age 40.  Near her 91st birthday, she took her written driving test and aced it to everyone’s surprise and horror.  Her plan was to retake the test at 95 if her eyes would just hold out. She was independent, resolute, and proud, I never saw her knocked off her throne. She was one tough bird. 

My last memories of Rosie were her toddling behind her walker, Pepsi bottle in hand, spam sandwich on the seat (midnight snacks were a thing for her) moving with determination and spunkiness I always admired towards her bed-chamber.  Her son tucked her in bed, positioned her Pepsi and spam sandwich strategically, kissed her goodnight,

and said he loved her.  The next morning we found her at 7 am peaceful and gone.  Her death certificate says she died of cardiac arrest, that day was July 20th, 2020.  

Her services, because we are in the deep end of a pandemic, will be filmed with Larry, Mikayla, and myself only.  We would like to offend everyone equally-no favorites. The video will be uploaded on YouTube and on East Lawn’s Memorial site.  She will be put to rest on top of her lifelong sweet Mr. Grumpy at East Lawn Mortuary next to her son Jimmy.  Her two kitties, Lucky and Pumpkin, will migrate into our own family to live out their lives. 


  • David Toy says:

    My condolences to the family. I was stationed in Western Australia with Jim for six months in the Outback in 1958. Jim was always seen with his pipe in his mouth and in Coveralls around our several campsites (he gave me his Coveralls when he left us in Australia and I still had them until I started downsizing a few months ago!). I spent time with both Rose and Jim in 1959-1960 while we were both working at AFTAC Headquarters in Virginia. Rose and Jim treated me like a son, and it was much appreciated. Rose was very understanding – I replaced the brakes on my car in their front yard in Virginia in the middle of winter. The last time I saw Jim was in the early sixties in Albuquerque (I was attending Univ of New Mexico) on their return to California – I met Jim at their motel, but Rose was asleep at the time so I missed her. We continued to exchange Christmas greetings with Rose over all these years, including last December. Rose always put a positive spin on things and will be sorely missed by all of us who knew her.

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