Nov. 16, 1920-Feb. 18, 2013
Portola Valley, California
Submitted by Carrie Sweetnam
Contact the submitter
Elsa Roscoe, a resident of Portola Valley for nearly five decades, passed away peacefully at home on February 18, 2013. She was 92 years old.
Elsa gained her German heritage from parents, Max Rautenberg and Elsie Hohner Rautenberg who emigrated from Germany passing through Ellis Island and settling for a brief time in New York before moving to Cleveland, Ohio, where Elsa was born.
She learned her strong work ethic from her father who spent nights in the library teaching himself English while training to be a landscape architect. She had one brother, Hans Herbert, who served in the Seabees during World War II, later working in civil service in Guam and Washington, D.C.
Elsa’s parents instilled a respect for education in their children and Elsa pursued and received a master's degree in economics from the University of Rochester in 1952, a few years after graduating from Ohio University with a degree in accounting.
Elsa lived a rich and rewarding life yet one not without heartbreak. Elsa married three times and outlived three husbands. Her first, Bob Jobe, whom she married in 1943, was killed in 1945 during World War II. She met her second husband, Raymond Spafford, while at the University of Rochester and married him in 1953.
Both employees of Eastman Kodak, Elsa and Ray moved to California due to a job transfer with Kodak to Palo Alto in 1953. Elsa and Ray fell in love with the rural nature of Portola Valley and became some of the earliest residents of Alpine Hills.
They purchased their lot for $1,200, cleared most of it themselves, then designed and built their dream home. Ray, who was an engineer, did a lot of the work himself. Ray died of cancer in 1967.
Elsa was married to John Roscoe, her third husband, for almost 40 years. John was a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and a Fellow in the Explorers Club. He and Elsa traveled extensively and had a residence at Air Force Village West in Riverside, where John died of a heart attack in 2007.
Elsa was gentle, funny, had an active intellect, and was a lover of music, which could be heard pouring from her windows every Sunday morning during her favorite radio show. She valued education and supported various students and institutions. Elsa had a natural curiosity, was interested in knowing how and why things worked and was an avid reader, reading everything she got her hands on, her home an abundance of stacks of articles to be read or reread.
Through her connection with Eastman Kodak and responsibility for testing different films, Elsa developed a love of photography, which remained with her throughout her life. Elsa, a tall willowy brunette, also modeled for Eastman Kodak in her younger years, in print ads and runway events. She drove the same car, a 1962 Porsche, for many years.
Elsa loved the outdoors (she received her first Kelty backpack from Dick Kelty himself), respected the environment and enjoyed nature, especially in her beloved Portola Valley. She practiced sustainability before it became popular and believed in caring for and fixing things, not throwing them out, a true embodiment of “waste not want not."
After dedicating herself to her career with Eastman Kodak for 40 years, Elsa retired but continued her active life. She volunteered for the Sensory Access Foundation and USGS, where she did geologic mapping in the Sierra Nevada. She was a follower of the Explorers Club and through the Earthwatch organization went on archaeological digs to Papeete and Huahine (French Polynesia), and Chaco Canyon, (New Mexico). Additionally, she trekked in Nepal, traveled through Pakistan, Burma, Greenland, and visited China. Her interest in health and nutrition, which she practiced throughout her daily life, led her to take classes in yoga and in recent years to participate in a Stanford Study on Aging.
Elsa is survived by many dear friends and neighbors: her niece and nephew, Peggy Spafford Golfin and Gene Spafford and their children, and stepdaughters, Chellie and Marilynne Roscoe.
A memorial service in her honor will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Ladera Community Church, 3300 Alpine Road, Portola Valley.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), 222 High Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301. Donation notation: “In Memory of Elsa Roscoe” Via weblink: www.openspacetrust.org