Camden Courier-Post - February 8, 2005

'Walking Encyclopedia' Leaves Clerk's Office 

For years, people have asked Rose Giuffre when she would retire. 

"They'd say, `I'll believe it when I see it,' " Rose says with a chuckle.

Well, the unbelievable has happened.

At 80, and after 63 years of working in the Camden city clerk's office, Rose retired last month.

Reluctantly, I might add. Charles Giuffre, her husband of 53 years, is ailing and needs her full-time attention.

It's safe to say the city clerk's office won't be the same without her.

"She was one of the most knowledgeable city employees - a walking encyclopedia," Mayor Gwendolyn Faison - one of the nine mayors with whom Giuffre has worked - said in a statement provided by her spokesman, the Rev. Tony Evans. "She will be extremely missed."

This "walking encyclopedia" (one vintage newspaper story about her was headlined, "Rose knows") is a stylish, self-effacing woman who grew up in South Camden and left Woodrow Wilson High School to go to work and help support her family in 1941, when she was 16.

She was hired at City Hall under a New Deal program called the National Youth Administration, earning $18 a month.

"Guess what I wanted to be? I wanted to be a seamstress," Rose says, sitting in the immaculate living room of her longtime home in Audubon.

She and her husband, a retired tailor, have a grown daughter, Sharon Iannece of Laurel Springs, and three grandchildren.

Sewing didn't turn out to be Rose's profession. Through the NYA, she was assigned to the city clerk's office and worked there part-time until she was hired as a regular city employee in 1947. Except for a maternity leave in the mid-1950s, she was on duty behind the counter in the first-floor clerk's office until just a few weeks ago.

When Rose started working for the city, George Brunner was mayor and America had yet to enter World War II. Many city transactions and records were written in pen-and-ink - "later we graduated to ballpoint," she recalls - and Camden was much bigger in population and far more dense with industries and businesses than it is today.

Employees in the clerk's office sat on stools at high desks with tilted surfaces to facilitate writing.

"I liked everything about the job," says Rose, whose early tasks included indexing city council ordinances and resolutions. "I liked the elections, and doing the liquor licenses, and I liked dealing with the public."

She rose through the ranks, from clerk to senior clerk to head clerk, from acting assistant to assistant city clerk. Former city clerk John Odorisio, who retired in 1992, was Rose's boss for almost 40 years.

"She was the most efficient, loyal and dedicated person you'd ever want to meet," he says. "Just a nice, nice person."

Co-workers Joyce Patterson and Elesha Johnson agree.

"Her memory was phenomenal," says Patterson, who's worked in the office for 25 years. "She'd remember things from whenever."

Adds Johnson, a 10-year employee, "I don't know what I would have done without her. She taught me everything I know."

If there's a secret to Rose's longevity, her diplomatic skills probably have something to do with it. She professes to have enjoyed working with all of the mayors under whom she served, although when pressed, she acknowledges she especially liked Joe Nardi, Angelo Errichetti, Randy Primas and Faison.

"I miss the people I worked with," she adds. "I miss getting up and getting dressed and going to work."

So does she have any advice for those who also would seek a long career in public service?

"Have a pleasant attitude," Rose says. "That's about the only advice I have."