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Royalty in West Linn

New Rosarian prime minister is Gayle Whitehurst


by: VERN UYETAKE - Gayle Whitehurst of West Linn was just inducted as the 2012-2013 prime minister for the Royal Rosarians.  You don’t have to live in the Portland metro area for long before you run into a Rosarian, those dignified folks dressed in white from head to toe who serve as the ambassadors to the city. Now, West Linn can boast the home of the 2012-13 Rosarian prime minister.by: VERN UYETAKE - Gayle Whitehurst and her husband, Ed Whitehurst, travel the world promoting the city of Portland through the Royal Rosarians.

Gayle Whitehurst was inducted as the new prime minister for the Royal Rosarians during a Sept. 22 installation ceremony.

For those who may not be familiar with the Rosarians, the organization was formed in 1912 for members to act as official greeters and ambassadors for Portland and the Portland Rose Festival. Their trademark white suits and straw hats, along with their long history of tradition, have not changed. Currently, there are about 300 Rosarians.

Rosarians are parade favorites, who march down streets and wave at children and their parents.

“Seeing those smiles is so heart-warming,” Whitehurst said.

But it is not all parades — Rosarians also serve as greeters to visiting dignitary and travel the country and the world representing Portland and planting roses everywhere they go. Whitehurst and her husband, Ed Whitehurst, have traveled to Prague, Austria, Germany, Spain, Japan and Portugal, to name a few, representing the Rose City.

Whitehurst joined the Royal Rosarians in 2005. She retired in 1994 from Techtronic where she was the director of human resources and employee relations. She joined because she was looking to give back to the community.

“I’ve been aware of the Rosarians all my life, since a little girl sitting on the curb watching the Rose Festival parade,” she said.

The Whitehursts have lived in West Linn since 2002, moving after 22 years in Lake Oswego. The couple married in 1984, and together have four children and four grandchildren.

Though Ed Whitehurst is involved in plenty of Rosarian activities, it is a rule that only one spouse can be an actual Rosarian — though Whitehurst has not been able to uncover the reason behind the rule.

Though her time with the Rosarians has been short, Whitehurst has worked her way up through the ranks quickly. In 2007 she was appointed to the council, which is similar to a board of directors. Only one other Rosarian has moved up as quickly as Whitehurst, and she is the second female prime minister.

“I enjoy supporting Gayle. She is good at what she does,” Ed Whitehurst said. “I had a very full business life. It’s been so nice to switch all that over to Gayle.”

Now, as she enters her one-year term as prime minister, it is her turn to lead the organization. Whitehurst likened her role to that of a CEO or president of the board. She will help determine what events the Rosarians will attend and what trips they will make. As an organization, all members must pay for every aspect of the club, from the $2,000 suits to the plane tickets.

“Being prime minister is a huge honor,” Whitehurst said.

But her husband is quick to chime in that it is also a lot of hard work and dedication to the organization.

“To be prime minister, you really have to want to do it,” he said.

“I thought real long and hard if I wanted to run,” Whitehurst said. “I felt I had something to offer.”

by: SUBMITTED - Gayle Whitehurst was given the title prime minister during the installation ceremony Sept. 22.  by: SUBMITTED - Rosarian prime minister Gayle Whitehurst waves after receiving her new cape during the installation ceremony.

Though Whitehurst enjoys many aspects of the Rosarians, a source of pride for her is the organization’s nonprofit foundation, which supports children, schools and community spirit.

“The foundation is a big part of who we are,” she said.

One of her fondest memories as a Rosarian is Christmas shopping with a boy who was 7 or 8 years old through the Christmas for Kids program. Rosarians are matched with an underprivileged child and are given a budget to buy clothes, necessities, gifts for the family as well as a toy or two. When the boy’s eyes alit on a $50 remote control truck, the Whitehursts offered to buy it for him because it went over his budget. But, he declined, saying, “No, you’ve done enough.”

Of course, they bought him the truck anyway. A few days later, they heard the boy had been sharing with everyone that the shopping trip was the best day of his life.

“It’s those kinds of experiences,” Whitehurst explained as to why she enjoys the organization.

The Whitehursts have also enjoyed traveling and making friends all over the world. This spring they will travel to Florida and plant a rose in honor of Mayor Sam Adams in front of the Kennedy Space Center.

Along the way, they have met some pretty spectacular people, including the president of Ireland, the president of Liberia, an ambassador to the United Nations, the former president of South Korea and most recently, the president from South Africa.

“It’s an opportunity to meet and greet people in our life that we would never have had the opportunity before,” Whitehurst said.

“I don’t think any other city has an organization like the Royal Rosarians,” Ed Whitehurst said.

The job of a Rosarian is a busy one. This last year they participated in 21 parades, greeted about 20 dignitaries and opened a number of conventions and conferences. In all, Rosarians put in around 22,000 hours of community service a year.

Though the work is taxing, the members make it all worthwhile for the Whitehursts.

Describing the typical Rosarian, Whitehurst said, “They’re huge hearts. They love their community, they love their city and they love the Rose Festival.”

“They are the most giving group of people I’ve met in my life,” Ed Whitehurst said.

Though the hours of service are demanding, perhaps the hardest part of being a Rosarian is balancing having fun with the traditional dignity that goes with the role.

“You can’t jaywalk when I’m wearing my whites,” Whitehurst joked.

For more information on the Royal Rosarians, visit http://royalrosarians.org.