No Hope? Chase A Rainbow

Rosalee Ernest EHAS Everybody Has A Story Feb 2, 2001 CBS

CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman regularly demonstrates that everybody has a story worth telling, and he does it by throwing a dart at a map and going to the place on the map where the dart lands.

This time, the dart sent him to Tripp County, South Dakota, where he met a woman who's living proof that true love knows no bounds. "Pretty much everybody said that I couldn't have picked a better person," says Hartman. "And I have to say, I agree."


Rosalee Ernest, 62, is, by all accounts, one bright, colorful...how shall we say...spirited woman.

"One of my sons says, 'Mom is the perpetual optimist. She can find something good in anything.' And I think we're supposed to do that," says Rosalee.

Her story begins the year before Dr. Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine, one year too late for a ninth grader named Rosalee. She was told she'd never walk again.

"There was no way anybody was going to tell me I couldn't do something," she says. "And I did walk again."

She eventually walked down the aisle with a sailor named Dave and had four kids.

Rosalee says her disability has gotten worse over the years and jokes that eventually it's going to fold her in two. But the sad fact is that her biggest challenge hasn't been her disease. It's been his.

Track Hartman's travels via the Everybody Has A Story archive.
About a year and a half ago, Dave was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS. There's no cure. But Rosalee, the woman who once smiled back at polio, says she was determined to approach her husband's illness with that same unbridled optimism.

"So we came home, and I became a witch doctor," she recalls. "I brewed teas like you have no idea - cocklebur root, rhubarb root, Chinese red ginseng."

To fix her husband, Rosalee quit her job as city finance officer.

"It's kind of like radar. You home in on whatever might help," she explains.

If somebody had told her, "You need to hold a moon rock," she would have tried that.

"I would have found a moon rock," she avers, "if I had to go get it myself."

Adds Dr. Tony Berg, their family physician, "She was looking for a cure. And she said, 'I'm going to keep looking until I find it. I'm not going to give up'... People don't like science. They like miracles."

Dave Ernest died one year ago.

"I had a lot of faith," she says, in tears. "But it didn't work... He was just a good guy."

Vitamins, herbs, oils and lotions. None of them worked. And, yet, Rosalee says she'd try them all, all over again.

"When they don't give you hope," she explains, "you chase rainbows."


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  • Ellen Crean

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