Name: Rochel Roth
Birthplace: Tucson, AZ
Occupation: First female owner of a large dental supply company; retired
Husband’s Name: Yitzchak Yaakov Roth
Husband’s Occupation: Interior plant business; retired
Children: Amy, Joseph and Michael
Place of Residence: Chicago

It took a trip to Tucson for Rochel and Yitzchak, both natives of El Paso, to meet. Relatives there set them up on a blind date. They dated for ten days and waited six months to get married—enough time for Rochel to graduate high school. Even though they had never met before that, their paths had crossed decades earlier. Rochel's grandparents played cards with Yitzchak's, and Rochel's aunt and uncle catered Yitzchak's circumcision. Rochel laughs at the memory, "It really is a beautiful story."

When you have little to give, but don't stop giving, that's specialIt is now many decades, and many beautiful memories later, that they are happily married. Yitzchak, so grateful for the wife he was bestowed, nominated her for this distinction. "When you have little to give, but don't stop giving, that's special. And that's my wife."

Rochel expresses her benevolence artistically. She utilizes her gift of pen and paper to bring joy to others through a steady correspondence with three Jewish men who are incarcerated and receive no other mail. She hand-makes all her stationery and includes a personalized quote on the top of each letter. Rochel gets great pleasure from her correspondence, something she remembers her grandmother doing throughout her childhood. And while she is rejuvenating a dying art, she is bringing happiness to those less fortunate.

And that, according to her proud husband, is what she does best. Sundays find her at a local food pantry where she hands out baby supplies such as diapers, formula, and vitamins. Because of their current needs, the Roths are able to benefit from the pantry as well: Rochel scours the shelves for kosher items. Like all Jewish women, she knows that charity begins at home. She helps care for her grandchildren who live around the corner and of course, her husband's needs.

Amongst family and friends, Rochel has affectionately been nicknamed, "The Blessed Record Keeper." Whenever anyone has an important date or event that they want to be reminded of, they call Rochel who writes it down in her book. She calls them with periodic reminders before and on the day. Rochel still uses a small book to record these dates for her twenty-five "customers" (including a friend who is an executive with her own personal secretary).

By Rochel's own admission, she wasn't always creative. She credits her grandmother Sylvia with this gift. During her childhood, Rochel's grandmother tried to teach her various arts, to no avail. Rochel's mind was always more business-oriented. It was only after her various diagnoses that this creative side of hers appeared.

Rochel has affectionately been nicknamed, "The Blessed Record Keeper"Although Rochel is so vibrant, the truth is that she suffers from many illnesses. The once-top executive of a successful dental supply company is currently plagued with, among other things, Parkinson's Disease. Her husband suffers from Polyneuropathy (CIDP), Rheumatory illnesses, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His current ailments stem from his military service in Vietnam and could result in his being wheelchair-bound.

Rochel has found the strength to deal with these trials from her various family members and her youth. That childhood began in Tucson and continued in El Paso, when she was a few years old. Her Czechoslovakian father, Martin, had moved to Tucson following the Second World War. Like most immigrants, he went to New York first, and then continued south to find respite for his scarlet fever ("all the original Jews of Tucson moved there because of their health"). He married a local girl, Maxine.

Rochel vividly recalls her "wonderful childhood in that very heimish (homey) town." Her Chassidic father was the local butcher and community life was the focal point of their days. Although she hated Hebrew School ("boring"), she still cherishes her memories of the synagogue. "If I wasn't at home, I was at the synagogue," she chuckles.

Though he never spoke about it, her father's experiences during the Holocaust hovered over her childhood. After living through five different concentration camps (and losing his mother and siblings), he resolved to rebuild his life. He moved as far as he could from war-ravaged Europe, but the memories followed. Rochel's family never owned a rocking chair, because one had been purchased by her father's mother days before the Nazis dragged them from their home. The association was too strong for Martin to overcome.

To this day, she considers her father to be one of her heroes. Rochel remembers how hard her parents worked and how her father specifically taught her the proper way to treat people. "Even if he was mad at someone, he would rebuke him in such a way that the person actually thanked him." One of her happiest memories is of her father standing on a Dallas street corner inviting people to her twin sons' circumcisions. It was the first double-circumcision in the city, and the proud grandfather wanted everyone (friend and stranger) to share his joy.

While the Roths have enjoyed numerous happy occasions throughout their years together, they have also experienced many trials.

Rochel loves using her ingenuity to express her spiritual sideDespite them, Rochel is so animated. She says her illness "doesn't stop me from doing anything." In fact, soon after she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, her creativity blossomed allowing her to give to others in various ways.

When she isn't giving, Rochel spends her time painting, sewing and creating. Yitzchak jokes that if someone stands in their house long enough, she will either paint their portrait or make them a pillow. Everyone in their neighborhood has one of her signature pillows—created with equal parts of skill and love.

Rochel loves using her ingenuity to express her spiritual side. Her favorite part of the week is Shabbat (for which she starts preparing on Monday) and her favorite part of Shabbat is Havdalah, which marks the end of Shabbat to ordinary weekday. Back in El Paso, she used to attend Havdalah services in the synagogue, and it has stayed at the top of her list ever since. The set the Roths use each week is handmade from wood. Rochel made her own candle as well but it burned her hand badly and she caved in and bought one.

Within the last year, they have both felt a desire to learn more about Judaism. With the help of Rabbi Benzion Treitel, who they learn with once a week, Yitzchak has recently started putting on his own set of Tefillin. They met him through the popular JNet and look forward to their weekly study sessions. Rabbi Treitel tells me that the one time Rochel wasn't available to learn, she was busy polishing her candlesticks for Shabbat.

Yitzchak wants his wife's story to be heard. "Our life has gone through dramatic change. We have gone from regularly functioning to disabled, from financially secure to insecure. But she still makes it an okay day." He feels that people often don't realize that there are those with tremendous burdens. His wife's story is a prime example of someone who has risen above her challenges and truly accomplished. "She has made life special. She makes other people's lives better, and isn't that what we are here for?"

Rochel accepts his praise with grace and says, "I wake up every day and thank G‑d for waking up and for what He has put before us. I can't live any other way but happy. I'm a survivor. It's in my blood. I'm a survivor."