Dick Rost remembered as lover of life, golf, interior design
JANESVILLE—Dick Rost loved golf, and he was very good at it.
One day, Rost came into the clubhouse, and a friend asked him how he did on the links that day. He said he didn't know. He had stopped keeping score.
“He just enjoyed being out there,” recalled Ted Thompson.
“He enjoyed it every step of the way—Mr. Sweet Swing,” said another friend, Duke Kelly.
“He had the sweetest swing you'll ever see,” Thompson added.
The longtime golfer, interior designer and Janesville businessman died Saturday at age 84.
Some of Rost's friends spoke at their daily meeting at the Wedge Inn on Tuesday. Rost was a member of the Toast and Jelly Breakfast Club, a tradition that started at a downtown restaurant in 1961.
The silver-haired club members expressed great affection for their friend but said he was a private man who didn't always say what he had been up to.
They agreed that an old-fashioned word described him well: gentleman.
“I don't think I ever met anyone who didn't like Dick Rost. He was just a nice guy, a caring person, and he had a great sense of humor,” agreed Ken Hulen, the former golf pro at the Janesville Country Club, who spoke from his home in Texas on Tuesday.
Although Rost had health problems that included surgery and kidney dialysis in later years, “I never even once heard him complain,” Hulen said. “… He just took it all in stride.”
Rost's love for golf led to the Rost Cup, an annual country club event for several years that mimicked the U.S.-versus-Europe Ryder Cup.
Rost would captain the U.S. team, Hulen the Europeans.
“He had them rename it the Rost Hulen Cup. That's the kind of person that he was,” Hulen recalled.
The Toast and Jelly gang said Rost was particular about aesthetics. He never owned a plaid flannel shirt, jeans or corduroys.
The club bought him a shirt and jeans one year, and he gave them back.
That sense of style carried over into his interior design/furniture business, which started in 1951 when he came home after getting a fine arts degree from the University of Colorado.
Rost joined his father, who ran a sign company and sold paint, draperies and other decorating supplies on North Main Street in Janesviille. They expanded the business to include furniture and carpeting and became E.W. Rost and Son, and later, Exclusively Rost's.
Rost designed corporate and home projects locally, in Madison, Lake Geneva and sometimes out of state, but he never bragged, said Scott Owen, a friend since childhood.
Rost gave about 40 interior designers their start over the years. Lana Van Galder is one of those.
When the furniture store closed in a tough economy in 1988, Rost and Van Galder continued as design consultants. They worked together 44 years.
“We never had a disagreement, never had harsh words. I can't say that for everybody else in my life,” Van Galder said.
Van Galder still runs the business, called Interiors, at 109 W. Milwaukee St.
Van Galder admires Rost's sense of style, calling him the Ralph Lauren of the Midwest.
“Rost told friends he was the longest-tenured member of the American Society of Interior Designers, something in which he took pride.
“He was always thinking of young people and the future of the industry, and he just really believed in quality things,” Van Galder said.
“You could always tell if Dick had done the room. It was understated, perfectly coordinated. He was always the perfectionist. He would do less rather than more,” she said. “…Dick's designs always functioned very well for people. They were not just beautiful, but they served a lifestyle.”
That was perhaps not a surprise, as Rost was a great admirer of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose motto was “form follows function.”
Rost loved to visit Wright-designed buildings, friends said.
Rost married a few years after his return to Janesville. He met Joann, a schoolteacher, on a blind date. They had three children.
“He was a very good father in every way,” Joann recalled.
“He probably got as much out of life as anybody I know, and he did it as pleasantly as anybody I know,” Hulen said.
In later years, health problems forced Rost to give up golf and another pastime, skiing, Owen said.
“I always remember him smiling, even when he was having those operations up in Madison and the dialysis,” Owen said. “He had a great outlook on life, and we all were better because of him.”
A visitation is set from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Schneider Apfel Schneider & Schneider Funeral Home and Crematory, 1800 E. Racine St., Janesville. Private family services will be held Thursday.