Why one woman just can't stay away
A Summer 2015 Yukon Prospector Web Extra.
The first time Rosalie Bruno Tosh asked her husband Greg to go to Alaska, the man was skeptical. He said there was no way he was driving the RV up there. He didn’t want to spend the summer freezing, says Rosalie.
She’s behind the counter of the Goldpanner Gift Shop in Chicken, Alaska. A wonderfully kitschy store embodying the tongue-in-cheek character of the town. A diminutive woman with short grey hair, and warm blue eyes, Rosalie looks likes she could be on a poster advertising grandmothers. She seems to embody all the characteristics you'd want in a matriarch. She’s kind, open hearted, and encouraging.
And she loves the town of Chicken. When she speaks about it, her voice takes on the exasperated tones of one in love. Her eyes twinkle. “You just can’t help but love it here,” she says.
The people she meets, the sense of family she feels all around her, and the majestic, cascading Alaskan wilderness stirs something inside her. Rosalie always wanted to see the state. So much that when her husband first refused to go, she jumped online and found them jobs anyways. “I wanted to see how the Alaskans lived,” she says.
On the web she met the Goldpanner’s owner Bronk, "A wonderful man," she says. Bronk offered the couple jobs, and they ended up spending part of their first Alaskan summer in Chicken. “Within a week [my husband] loved it. We were sitting on the porch of one of the cabins, and he was having a drink, just looking around. And as I look at him this huge smile spreads across his face,” she says. “When we got back after that first summer he was telling everyone how wonderful it was. You would have thought it was his idea!”
The pair were taken with the tiny town. Rosalie even wrote a book on the place, Little Rosie Posie Visits Chicken, replete with bright illustrations and information about the town. After their first visit they decided to come back two years later. This time spending an entire summer working for Bronk in Chicken. And again they loved it. In 2013 the couple bought a brand new RV, and planned to make the trip north the following year. But Greg wouldn't be able to make the trip.
He got a cough, was diagnosed with bronchitis, and died within two weeks from small cell lung carcinoma. The couple had spent 35 years together, but they were ripped apart in 14 days.
“I miss him terribly,” says Rosalie. “But in a way, I’m glad it happened so quick.”
Aside from the love of her life, Rosalie also lost the new RV, which the bank wouldn’t give her the deposit back on, and her trip to Chicken that next year. But the inspirational woman wouldn’t let it keep her down forever. She returned to Chicken for the summer of 2015. “At 76 years old who knows how many summers I have left,” she says. “Greg would have wanted me to go on having fun.” And Rosalie, a believer in life after death, knows that Greg is right there beside her.
“I had two close calls traveling up here,” she says, having almost missed two of her four transfers. “But I made it back, and I know he’s looking out for me.”
You can grab a copy of Rosalie's delightful book from amazon here.
Or, of course, you could always head to Chicken and check out the unique little mining town.
Photos and Story by