“He was just a politician doing his job,” Jake Rosa said a few years ago, “shaking hands, looking for a vote. He has on probably an eight, nine-hundred dollar pair of shoes, and I says, ‘You, you’re a phony. You were supposed to be a farmer and represent farmers. Them shoes you’re wearing cost more than most farmers make in a year.’”
The politician looked at Rosa dumbstruck. Rosa served on the Middletown Town Board and was in Albany trying to convince lawmakers of the importance of helping the local timber industry. A Republican just like the official he was meeting, Rosa didn’t hesitate to tell the man that he was failing his constituents. He would speak his mind to help his community.
Jacob (Jake) Rosa died in a farming accident early on January 5. The 42 year-old was helping a friend with a broken tractor when it rolled over on a steep narrow driveway. “All he wanted to do was help people and give,” his father Alan Rosa said. While that might be a cliché said about another, it is not where Rosa is concerned. Local Margaretville contractor Rudd Hubbell called him, “a positive soul,” and Margaretville shop owner Jessica Oleynich said, “The fact that he was helping someone, that was what he did, and it speaks volumes about his loss to the community.”
He served for more than eight years on the town board and on the board of the Catskill Forest Association. His family has long espoused service in Middletown and Delaware County. His father Alan Rosa had been town supervisor and then was key to forming the Catskill Watershed Corporation where he serves as its executive director. One uncle Gene Rosa heads the local fire department and the other Gary Rosa is a county judge.
A professional logger, Rosa had a deep love of the forest. “He was big man,” his father said, “but could walk through the woods quiet as a mouse and with the grace of a deer, too.” President of Catskill Forest Association’s board Mike Porter explained, “As a professional logger, Jake had a keen intuition about forests. He had his finger on the economics of forestry and timber for landowners. In a place where many struggle to hold onto their land, he had the bottom-line interests of people trying to keep their lands.”
You could say that the forest was in his blood. His family has lived in the Dry Brook area of Arkville since the mid 19th century where his great grandfathers were sawyers and his grandfather a forest ranger. Following in their footsteps, Rosa was named logger of the year for the Watershed and Catskill region in 2009 and the next year for the Northeastern Loggers Association. Beating foresters from Maine to Minnesota, the accolade reflected his care for sustainable woodlands. He also won state and national logging competitions where events like speed cut, precision stump, aim notch, and spring pole are graded on speed and safety.
In the post-farming economy when so much Watershed land has returned to forests, Rosa saw them as key to the region’s economic future. He argued for building a chip-burning electric plant in the Town of Middletown, which would employ up to 80 people and use the area’s copious low-grade timber. He also worked closely with the Watershed Agriculture Council’s forestry program to champion healthy forests. “They make clean water,” he explained as he walked the land. Waving his arm at the trees, he’d see all that was possible even on a small woodland plot on which he stood.
He is survived by partner Theresa Balcom, his stepdaughter and her husband Savannah and Brad Fischer along with his granddaughter Ellie. Also surviving are his parents Alan and Debbie Rosa, sister Abigayle and husband Casey Bates, and brother Ryan and wife Allie. Surviving grandparents are Mildred Rosa and Charlie and Eleanor Mager as well as numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Calling hours will be from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Friday January 12 at the Margaretville Central School auditorium.