Kennewick man raising teen daughters after wife's death

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldJune 15, 2013 

KENNEWICK -- Chuck Rosenbaum is many things to his daughters -- coach, taxi driver, cook, adviser -- but most important of all, he's their dad.

For the past 11 years, he's been a single parent to his two girls, Kinzie, 15, and Gracie, 14.

His wife, Sheri, was killed Oct. 9, 2002, when a piece of concrete broke off and struck her on the head at a demolition project at the Boise Cascade plant in Wallula, where she had been employed for 11 years.

Chuck Rosenbaum, 44, of Kennewick, was also employed at the Wallula plant. His wife worked days and he worked alternate shifts.

"I was home with the girls when I got the call," he said. "I was shocked, in a fog."

The girls were 4 and 3 when their mother died. Today, Kinzie is an honors student at Kamiakin High School. Gracie, who will be a freshman at the school in the fall, earns straight As.

'Best dad ever'

His eldest daughter, Kinzie, said it's hard to compare your own parent to friends' parents.

"But my dad's great, even my friends call him the best dad ever," Kinzie said.

Rosenbaum has coached his girls' sports teams "for eons," beginning when they were young -- T-ball, then baseball and volleyball.

"It was important to me to get them both involved in sports, in something they could enjoy and have fun at," he said.

Kinzie recently dropped sports in favor of drama, but Gracie still plays softball in the Tri-City Fast Pitch league. Rosenbaum is her team's assistant coach.

Now that the girls are older and have different interests, Rosenbaum finds it's necessary to switch off, attending one event with one daughter one time, spending another day with her sister.

"We mix and match and make it work," he said.

Rosenbaum went back to work for a few months after his wife's death, he said, but his life had irrevocably changed.

"My co-workers said I wasn't fun to be around anymore," he said. "(Boise Cascade) wasn't a good place for me."

He left Boise Cascade to stay home to raise his girls. He's able to support them with his wife's life insurance and pension.

"I respect people who have to raise a family and work," he said. "But being at home enabled me to get involved in their lives to an extent that wouldn't be possible if I worked."

A longtime friend, Jennifer Knighten of Kennewick, said Rosenbaum always puts the needs of his daughters ahead of his own.

"A lot of parents do that, but he goes the extra mile. His whole world revolves around the girls," she said. "He has always been there for his daughters and their friends regardless of the cost -- mostly of his time."

Terrific friend

Rosenbaum has never remarried. While he has lots of friends who are ladies, there's no one in his life on a regular basis, he said.

Fortunately, Rosenbaum has two brothers living in the Tri-Cities, as well as a sister-in-law and several older nieces who have always been willing to help out.

He also has an extended network of friends -- men and women -- to call on when necessary.

"They give me a break and take over when I have to get out and do adult things," he said.

Rosenbaum calls himself the taxi dad because he's the one his daughters' friends' parents call on when they can't drive. He's also on his friends' emergency contact lists.

"I'm everyone's backup," he said.

Craig Howell of Kennewick, who has known Rosenbaum for almost 25 years, agrees. Rosenbaum is exceptionally willing to lend a hand or moral support, he said.

"A lot of people say, call if you need something. But he really follows up to see what he can do," Howell said. "He's someone who keeps his word. That's the kind of guy he is. Chuck was raised with Midwestern values and he kept them, and he's passing them on to his girls. They're going to be solid citizens. In fact, they already are."

Knighten admires Rosenbaum's parenting skills.

"I have never met someone as completely selfless as Chuck when it comes to rearing his children," Knighten said. "He has surrounded himself with the parents of the friends of his children in order to serve his children, while also raising two absolutely beautiful daughters without sacrificing their happiness in the process. I can't say enough how much of an inspiration he is to me as a parent and a friend."

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