DEERFIELD — A 14-year-old girl who died after suffering a seizure last weekend is remembered by family members, classmates and the community for the way she lived the life of a normal teenager despite epilepsy, an illness that could, and did, sometimes strike her down suddenly, violently and without notice.
Rose Robert, a June graduate of Deerfield Community School, died Saturday after suffering an epileptic seizure while out jogging near her home.
Epileptic seizures began when Rose was in fifth grade and came to occur at a rate of nearly two per month.
"She didn't complain about it, she would get frustrated with it, but she never complained; she would never transfer that frustration to other people," her father, Ernest Robert said. "People say she was an angel and maybe that's a little corny, but she recognized the dignity in everybody, and everybody loved her back for it."
The Deerfield community recognized and protected the dignity in Rose, too.
In April, she was in a gym class in an athletic field located a distance away from the main building at Deerfield Community School.
"She had a seizure, which is not pleasant and frightening," Robert said.The eighth grade students protected their classmate, even calming a gym teacher who, caught by surprise, appeared unsure of how to react.
"They said 'we know what do to,'" Robert said. "One kid ran for the nurse and they formed what was described to me as a circle of privacy. There are all kinds of people up there, but they put her in a position to do what she needed to do and kept the gawkers away."
Rose devoted extra effort with school drama groups, overcoming the periodic cognitive difficulties that sometimes resulted from changes in the medications she took to reduce occurrence of seizures.
"She just worked through it, she loved to learn and it never affected her love for drama," her father said. She was a member of the track and cross country teams, was elected class president and was drawn to the performing arts, both in school drama productions and with the Concord Chorale.
Last year, about three hours before a school performance of the musical Annie, in which the red-haired Rose was to play the title role, she suffered an epileptic seizure.
Without announcing the reason, the school postponed the performance from Friday to Sunday, changing the plans of scores of parents, grandparents and siblings."We were in the ER at 3 a.m. Saturday morning," Robert said. "She rested up, and that Sunday, she nailed it."
Last Saturday, when Rose went out for her run, her father did what he usually did when she went off by herself.
Respecting his daughter's growing sense of self-sufficiency, but worried about what he knew could happen to her, Robert busied himself in the front yard, to be in a position to wait and watch as she came by, running the loop formed by the streets in their neighborhood.
"She's 14 and she's growing up, she wants a degree of independence," he said.
Saturday, she ran by once. The second lap took longer.
He quickly realized it had been too long.
Robert got on his bike and went looking for his daughter. Police and town emergency squads came out to help in the search.
"They knew they were looking for Rose and they knew her issues. It wasn't the first time," Robert said.
The girl died not far from her home.
"They really stepped up, and I know they took it hard," he said. "The police involved; the rescue squad really wanted this one."
The Robert family believes Rose's attitude and enthusiasm for life will always be with them.
"On a personal level, what I learned from Rose, despite her difficulties is, life for her was still a joy — to learn, to be with friends, to do what she liked to do."
Deerfield is a community of some 4,300 people, scattered across 52 square miles, and has seen its share of crime and other negative news in recent years.
But Robert said that for his family, the publicized problems will never overshadow the community's heart.
"In another place, people with epilepsy get swept aside," he said. "They gave her a life."
Robert said he also hopes people understand how important Rose's friends were to her and are to her family.
They protected her when she suffered an attack, elected her president of her class and helped her live a typical adolescent life, despite her affliction.The day after Rose died, Robert went to the community school where he expected a small group of her friends to gather to mourn together.
"It seemed like the entire class was there, they were there for each other," he said. "I'm very thankful for them, in allowing Rose to be Rose."
In addition to her father, Ernest Robert Jr., Rose is survived by her mother, Mariane; a sister, Liza, 25; brother Atticus, 22; and a sister Anna.