This story is about a man who was my hero when I was 17 years old, a recent high school graduate of Detroit Public Schools. Immediately after graduation, I applied for a clerical job through the central office of Detroit Public Schools (DPS). In my mind, career options were limited. They contacted me within weeks of submitting my application to work in a temporary position as a clerk typist in the Adlai Stevenson Building in the Work Adjustment Programs. The secretary was on an extended medical leave.
My supervisor’s name was Dr. Al (Elvin) Rasof, Director of the Work Adjustment Programs. It consisted of three citywide work programs developed for Detroit young people. It had quite a reputation for helping thousands of young people and hiring hundreds of teachers, counselors and administrators to lead these programs. I found the work very exciting, especially during the summer programs. My network grew.
Who is Al Rasof? He is a kind, intelligent Jewish man. He made decisions quickly without mincing words. He walked fast and wore soft bottom shoes. He typed with great speed and accuracy on an old-fashioned manual typewriter using only two fingers. Sometimes a smile would breakthrough on the face of this serious-minded man. He said what he thought and meant what he said. Integrity and work ethnics were highly valued.
I recall coming to work one morning and I told Dr. Rasof about an emergency family situation. My parents received an early morning call from the police department in Ontario, Canada regarding my paternal aunt and a couple who were returning to Detroit from a fishing trip; unfortunately, they were in a tragic car accident under foggy conditions on Highway 401. Dr. Rasof always came to the office much earlier than anyone else did. He informed me of what he heard on the radio. He placed his hand on my shoulder as I was sitting at my desk and he said, “I heard about that accident. I'm sorry to have to tell you that all three adults were killed.” I immediately called my mother to let her know about the fatal accident. I was grateful for his honesty and concern. I went home.
I was part of an intimate working team. We had hot soup and played Yahtzee during lunch time. An opportunity became available to work for a director in one of the high school offices in the Work Adjustment Programs. I interviewed and accepted the position. In the years ahead, Dr. Rasof encouraged me to pursue higher-level secretarial positions. I took his advice and prepared myself for future promotions. When I was twenty-three years old, he commended me for my work and ability to get along with a variety of people. He recognized my strengths and encouraged me to get a college degree in a field working with people.
He believed in me, and I believed every word he said to me. He took this one step further by having a conversation about me attending Wayne County Community College in Detroit with one of his directors, Dr. Robert F. Shannon, a well-known fraternal brother, who knew many people from all sectors of life. As a result of their conversation, Dr. Shannon and I visited the President’s Office of the college. The President arranged for my enrollment on the spot.
This was a major pivotal moment in my life! I set a goal to earn a four-year degree before I turned 30 years old. I received a B.A. degree from Marygrove College when I was 29 years old. I left DPS, worked at the General Motors Research Laboratories in Warren, MI, and later worked for IBM Corporation. The opportunities were limitless!
I talked to Dr. Rasof only twice since I left DPS. I briefly talked to him in 2009, when his wife Betty passed. I remembered how much he loved Betty. They did not have children.
Today I thought about Dr. Rasof, so I searched on the internet. I learned about his military service in WWII and France’s Knight of the Legion of Honor awarded to him in August 2018. The award was dedicated to “his fallen comrades.” This was no surprise!
He never told me about his military service. His conversations were never about himself. The impact he had on others was great. Find his WWII story at the following link: jewishhospice.org/media/wwii-veteran-elvin-al-rosof-awarded-frances-highest-honor/
He is one of my heroes. I am forever grateful for the Spirit's guidance on my path to God's greater purpose in my life! Whenever I tell people my life story, I mention Dr. Rasof as someone who greatly impacted my life. I want to continue my journey in life encouraging all people, but more specifically young people.
Thank God for the heroes in our life.