Fall 2011

Rosa Logan WalkerRosa Walker

Rosa Logan Walker is an enterprising entrepreneur, a business leader, a citizen’s voice for civic and community improvement and an inspiration to family and friends.  Her mountain heritage offers a unique historical insight to life as a black woman who successfully navigated the southern landscape of her time.

Rosa was born January 18, 1923. She was raised on a two hundred acre farm in the Uree area (now Lake Lure) of Rutherford County, North Carolina.  She was one of nine children. With the guidance and love of her deeply religious parents, Garfield and Lillie Bell Logan, she developed a strong moral character. Early on, Rosa was taught to give to those less fortunate.  Her father delivered baskets of food to those in need and Rosa would accompany him on his deliveries.  Her parents held high standards and failure was not acceptable.  Rosa’s personal sense of responsibility led her to academic success. In 1941, she graduated from an all black school in Uree, North Carolina.  After graduation, she moved to Black Mountain to live with a sister.  Rosa wanted to pursue higher education but lacked funding to do so.  Domestic service was one of the few employment opportunities for black women at this time, thus, Rosa entered the workforce as a domestic, scrubbing floors and working for white families. 

She then moved to Asheville in 1943 with the intentions of receiving higher education.  Cultural barriers of the time prohibited this goal. She applied to schools, but was denied entry due to her black heritage. She married George Weaver, while she still sought ways for independent success. 

Rosa moved forward with plans to improve her situation by enrolling in Asheville’s Stewart Beauty College training to be a cosmetologist.  At this time, most black women were employed in domestic service, commercial laundering, or working in the tobacco industry.  In the 1920’ and 1930s’ beauty service along with clerical, retail sales and waitressing were considered to be “Pink Collar” jobs for women.  Due to the vigorous training and examination required to obtain a beautician’s license, the women in beauty service were elevated to a higher status than those waitressing.  Statewide, the number of female barbers and beauticians rose from 9 in 1900 to nearly 3500 in 1940. Rosa’s endeavor was bringing her closer to her goal for independent success.

Rosa’s first employment was at Davis Beauty Salon where she gained incentive to save money.  At the early age of twenty six, she launched into entrepreneurship. Rosa had saved her earnings and purchased her first home for $1800 where she opened her own home beauty salon.  She built her trade and eventually owned four salons and employed over fifty cosmetologists.  She continued her business ventures for over fifty years.  She also attained business leadership roles.  She served as an executive officer, first vice-president and financial secretary for the North Carolina State Beauticians and Cosmetologist Association for African-American women and men.  She was affiliated with the association for eighteen years.  For her dedicated service, Rosa was honored with the association’s award, Woman of the Year in 1988.

Rosa’s civic, community, and church involvement is equally impressive.  She has volunteered her service, working with Quality Forward.  Her first project was to visually improve her neighborhood by planting trees along South French Broad Street. This was followed by a project to improve a trash filled empty lot, which led to the establishment of a park on Eagle Street.  She received the Clean Community Award from Quality Forward in 1986.  She is an active member of the Democratic Party and the NAACP.  Rosa has also volunteered for the Asheville Community Relations Committee and the YMI Cultural Center.  As a senior citizen living in the Battery Park Senior Apartments, Rosa joined the Concerns Committee and addressed the Mayor’s Committee and the Asheville City Council to give her citizen’s voice for the rights of disabled citizens.  Her efforts helped to add four additional handicapped parking spaces for the Battery Park apartments.  She also found time to manage the Martin Luther King concession stand for the Asheville Parks and Recreation softball games.  Rosa is an active thirty year member of St. James A.M.E. church in Asheville.  She served as the vice-chairman of the Steward Board and Hospitality Committee Chairperson.  In 1994, she was named “Woman of the Year” at St. James.

Rosa was married twice, first to James Weaver and then to James H. Walker. Her two sons and daughters all graduated from college achieving a goal that had been denied to her.  She has given of herself to her family and serves as the secretary for the Logan –Freeman family reunions.  She continues to be an inspirational spirit.

Rosa Walker has a tenacity of spirit, a will to achieve excellence, courage to forge ahead and the commitment to volunteer her time and service for the betterment of the Asheville community.  She is more than a woman of the year.  She continues to be a role model for all… truly a “Woman of a Lifetime” and deserves the tribute as an Asheville Living Treasure.

Dr. Lewis RathbunDr. Lewis Rathbun

Dr. Lewis Rathbun is best characterized as a medical pioneer, a doctor, a humanitarian, a WWII veteran, an artist and an author.  He has been called “Asheville’s Dean of Medicine” and his life story is compelling and inspiring.

Dr. Rathbun was born in 1913 in Canandaigua, New York and grew up in the Finger Lakes Region of New York in the farming town of Phelps.  By the time he was twelve, Lewis Rathbun knew he wanted to be a doctor.  He was inspired by a mentor, the rural family doctor, who he accompanied on rural house calls.  He drew further interest by observing a variety of factors that affected health in his own family.

 He received his medical education at Harvard, followed by a two year internship at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York and a three year residency in the Obstetrics-Gynecology Department at Harvard.  He moved to Asheville in September of 1947 to practice at the Norburn Clinic (now Mission Hospital).  Soon after his Asheville arrival, he noted a need among indigent and black patients.  Working with the county health department, he established a pre-natal clinic to serve those who could not afford private care. He then left the Norburn Clinic to establish a private practice.  As an OB-GYN he focused on women’s health issues that included a focus on cancer care.  During his career, it is estimated that he delivered around 5,000 babies. He served in many capacities, including Chief of Staff at Mission Hospital. Dr. Rathbun was honored with the Outstanding Physicians Award by the Buncombe County Medical Society in 1979, and in 2006, he received the Founders Day Award from Mission Hospital.

In late 1943, there began to be pressure to join the armed services.  Although he had a deferment to complete his residency, Lewis became eager to serve his country in WWII.  He entered the Naval Medical Corps on January 1, 1944 as a lieutenant junior grade and later became a full lieutenant.  He was assigned to a base in Kittery, Maine and after three months was ordered to a PT tender ship, the Orestes, headed to the Pacific.  Dr. Rathbun was the only ship doctor to a crew of three hundred.  Anchored in Mindoro, his ship was hit by a suicide plane that dropped a bomb prior to the plane’s impact.  He narrowly missed being killed, but 49 out the crew of 300 had been killed. The Orestes was eventually ordered back to California and after a brief leave, Dr. Rathbun was transferred to the Naval Air Station in Atlanta, Georgia.  After two and a half years of military service, he was discharged. It had been fifteen years since high school graduation when Dr. Rathbun began his medical practice.  He chronicles the details of his military service in his memoirs, and provides a unique perspective of WWII.

Following his interest and research into the mind-body connection and general wellbeing, Dr. Rathbun founded the Life After Cancer program in 1977. This was a support group for those living with cancer. His care of a local philanthropist, Adelaide Key, led her to build a hospitality house for patient’s relatives who were receiving care at Mission, St. Josephs and Care Partners. The center was named the Lewis Rathbun Center, in honor of Dr. Rathbun and his life of service.

Dr. Rathbun worked by example and gave the best care possible to his patients.  He merged science with the human spirit.  In 1973, he and his wife Betty went to Haiti to volunteer their services.  This was an example of his slogan--- “If you didn’t do it, who would?”

Outside of his professional career, Dr. Rathbun was diverse in his talents and enjoyed many years as an artist. He enjoyed photography and painting as means of relaxation.  He participated and served as president of the American Physicians’ Art Association.  In his mid to late seventies, he was diagnosed with an optic nerve disease and became legally blind.  True to his determined spirit, he found another outlet for his artistic passion.  He turned to Computer Art.  Earlier, at a showing of his paintings at Mars Hill College, he received a meaningful compliment from a retired professor--- “ Looking at these paintings, I can see you are a man at peace with himself.”

At age 95, Dr. Rathbun compiled his memoirs in his autobiography, A Doctor All My Life.  The book was well received, and in 2010 he was honored with a North Carolina Book Award from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.  He provides a narrative of his medical career and the changes in the medical profession, while including historical and sociological changes he has experienced.  It is a testament to his deep-seated humanism.

Lewis Rathbun is also a dedicated family man.  He married his wife, Betty in 1940. They have three daughters and numerous grandchildren. His daughter, Alexandra describes him as an amazing, gentle and giving man.

After a recent fall, the family minister inquired for Dr. Rathbun’s room number at the information desk at Mission Hospital. The volunteer said, “Oh, is Dr. Rathbun here? He’s a legend.”  Dr. Rathbun has led an exemplary life and is a genuine Asheville Living Treasure.

Marie Watters ColtonMarie Watters Colton

Marie Watters Colton is a pioneer among women with a distinguished record of accomplishment and public service to Asheville, Buncombe County, the state of North Carolina and, on a larger scale, the nation and the world.  As a political leader and public servant, she serves as an example of courage and commitment to others who support causes and issues relevant to our lives.

Marie Watters Colton was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, October 20, 1922, the daughter of Sarah Thomas and John Piper Watters.  Her grandparents moved from Charlotte to Asheville, which allowed Marie to form close bonds to Asheville and Western North Carolina.  From her visits and time spent in the area, she provides a fascinating historical narrative.  From adolescent memories of excursions in a Model A or Model T to the top of Beaucatcher Mountain, descriptions of the craftswomen working in Biltmore Village, activities at the Grove Arcade during the Rhododendron Festival and summers spent at the Kanuga Episcopal Conference Center, Marie gives insight to historical details, social customs and life to days gone by in the North Carolina Mountains.

Educated in the public schools of North Carolina, Marie attended St. Mary’s Junior College in Raleigh and  UNC Chapel Hill with a focus in Spanish.  She later went to Mars Hill College for a degree in piano.  Marie was beginning a pattern of excellence that would continue the rest of her life.

As a young woman, Marie experienced WWII from various vantage points.  She was a student at UNC-CH when Hitler invaded Poland and became a secretary in the school’s German Department when the United States entered the war.  She began establishing her career in Washington DC working for the US Army Signal Corps.  At the Signal Corps, she was a “spy” translating and decoding Axis messages sent from Madrid.  She also was the wife of a pilot who served in Europe.  Colton’s poignant memories recount what it was like to live in North Carolina before, during and after the war.

In 1943, Marie married Henry Elliot Colton. They moved from Morganton to Asheville in 1953. After her husband, an Asheville City Councilman, declined to run for state office, Marie decided to take on the challenge herself. Colton, a Democrat, campaigned and won the seat.  She served eight consecutive terms in the NC House of Representatives, representing the 51st District from 1978-1994. She was the first woman to be elected to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore and served in that role from 1991-1994.

Mrs. Colton’s record of service demonstrates that she has been a strong supporter of programs that reached out to ‘help the least of these’.  A major focus was to champion the rights of women and children.  She was a leader, as well, on issues of conservation and environmental protection.  Her legislative accomplishments and causes also included tax reform, historic preservation, arts and culture, alternative medicine, tourism and economic development, consumer protection, domestic violence laws and legislative ethics reforms.  Marie gained a reputation as a consensus builder, a person who offers and seeks respect for all points of view to gain the desired results for the greater good.  At age 71, after sixteen years of public service leadership, she chose not to seek reelection.

In recognition of her inspiring advocacy of women and children’s issues, Marie was appointed as a US Delegate to the United Nations Commission on the status of women in 1994.  In 2009, she was ensconced in the North Carolina Women’s Hall of Fame.  She has received numerous awards and has served on a number of state boards.

As a wife and mother, Marie raised four children, three daughters and a son. She was active in the PTA and served on the state-wide PTA Board. She and her husband, Henry, encouraged their children to travel and be a positive influence in the world.

Today, Marie resides at Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community in Asheville. She continues to care deeply and to support causes and issues she believes in.  She enjoys time with her children and grandchildren.  She is also making plans for her memoirs and wants to write a children’s book that relates to life at Deerfield.  Marie Colton continues to inspire others with her activism and positive outlook on life.  She is the embodiment of a Living Treasure for Asheville and Western North Carolina.