Alexander Rose III, 81, professor, Poe scholar

July 21, 1995|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

Alexander Grant Rose III, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Baltimore and an Edgar Allan Poe scholar, died Wednesday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center of heart and lung complications. He was 81 and lived in Cedarcroft.

Mr. Rose published three works on the life of Poe: "History, A Footnote to the Cultural History of Baltimore;" "Such Friends as These: Edgar Allan Poe's List of Subscribers and Contributors to his Dream Magazine," edited with Jeffrey A. Savoye; and "Poe on Baltimore," a book with photographs by A. David Copperthite.

He had been secretary-treasurer, historian and president of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, which he joined in 1965. He became known as "Mr. Poe" for the energy and vision he brought to the society's activities.

"He liked Poe because he liked the surprises, the puzzles and wonderful skill of the short story and the quality of music of the poetry," said Carol Peirce, a fellow UB professor and president of the Poe society.

"He said he got involved with the society because he was a sucker for lost causes," said his son, John M. Rose of Baltimore, chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Goucher College.

"Originally, the society was a women's bridge club -- a club that used to play bridge to raise money to keep the [Poe] house open. He worked to get shared funding for the state. He thought Poe was a great poet and never got the recognition he deserved."

Ms. Peirce said Mr. Rose knew the identity of the person who on Poe's birthday in January visits his grave at Westminster Hall on Fayette Street to leave three red roses and a half-bottle of cognac. But he always refused to reveal the person's name.

"All he'd say was that Poe had many mysteries and he meant to enchant us," she said. "He knew who it was, but he never told."

After joining the English Department at UB in 1965, Mr. Rose quickly became a popular teacher of American literature and a course on Poe. He also taught courses on the detective story and science fiction. In 1983, he was chosen UB's teacher of the year.

"As a teacher, he could work with the remedial and the best students we had," Ms. Peirce said. "He was able to work on several levels -- he had a brilliant mind."

Mr. Rose's hobbies included genealogy. He published 27 volumes on the history of his family that included old journals and even the post-World War I shopping list of his Aunt Alice. Each year, he received more than 2,700 letters from family members and friends with information to add to the family history, his son said.

"He was a great letter writer," John Rose said. "He'd start his Christmas cards in November."

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Alexander Rose was educated in Chicago and Detroit. He graduated from Wayne State University with bachelor's and master's degrees. Before coming to Baltimore in 1950, he taught at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota and George Washington University, and worked for the National Security Administration.

A memorial service was to be held at 7 p.m. today at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity, 419 Cedarcroft Road.

Other survivors include his wife of 52 years, Mary Carman Rose; and a sister, Laura Harrower of Colorado.

Memorial donations may be made to the Rose Memorial Fund of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.

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