Debbie Rosler (Winckler)


About Debbie Rosler (Winckler)

May 15, 1961 – April 7, 2017

Debbie Rosler

Debbie Rosler

In the summer of 1975 I met a girl.  She was named after the actress Debbie Reynolds, but I didn’t know that until later.

We were both Army Brats, and our paths collided at Ft Hood, just outside Killeen, Texas.

Debbie Winckler had these beautiful deep blue eyes that are a perfect reflection of her as a person and reveal the depth of her soul.

I was immediately taken by her, and after kissing her on the Zipper ride at the carnival, I knew that I wanted to get to know this special girl more.  We dated for about 18 months, but like many Army Brats a new duty assignment took my Dad and our family to California and created an abrupt separation to our relationship.  We stayed in touch for a while, but ultimately, we lost contact.

Fast forward 3 years, and Debbie found herself on a path to Oregon, and to Oregon State University.  One morning, in the first few weeks of her Freshman year, Debbie was reading the school newspaper and she was astonished to see an article written about my Dad, telling about him and his role as the new Professor of Military Science (PMS) at OSU.  She told herself “There can only be one Colonel Rosler”, and she had to find out right away.  That same morning she crossed the street to McAlexander Fieldhouse and marched up to the office of the PMS.  Sure enough, it was the same Colonel Curt Rosler, and she found out I was also a Freshman and living just down the street at OSU.  After seeing Debbie, my Dad called me, and “ordered me” with a high sense of urgency, “John, I need you to call this number right away”.  I called right away, and I knew the moment I heard the young woman’s voice on the other end of the phone – It was Debbie Winckler.

That night changed my life forever, and we have been together ever since, and only now we are separated from this world by her passing on April 7th at 5:55p, where she was surrounded by loving family members at our condo in Kirkland, Washington.

The following are what I will refer as the “Pieces of Debbie”, which will help you gain a more complete picture of how truly remarkable Debbie was.  She will continue to be the Love of My Life, and I will never forget her.

Debbie the Bull – Like her namesake, Debbie Reynolds, in the 1964 movie, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, portraying Margaret Brown, one of the few survivors of the Titanic, Debbie doesn’t quit.  She is truly a stubborn Taurus, but stubborn in a good way.  Debbie told me after we entered college, and were both struggling through our first year, that her high school counselor told her she needed to look for a vocational career, or just get married.  Her SAT scores were low, she struggled in math, and there wasn’t much promise in academics.  She not only made it through academic probation, she conquered Math 95 (her nemesis) switched majors and finished her degree in Education with near academic honors.  Later in life, she went on to get her Masters degree in Organizational Development and Training with honors, and paid for both of her degrees out of her pocket.

Debbie the Mom – Debbie was an incredible Mom.  She always had a fierce love for her boy, Craig.  She raised him to have a big heart, to think big, and to care deeply about others.  She provided emotional nurturing to him over the past 6 months of her life to ensure that he would be ok going forward.

Debbie the bonding agent – I have always seen Debbie as the glue of her family.  I know she hated discord and she always, always strived to keep communications strong.  She didn’t shy away from conflict but was always searching for ways to listen, and understand how she could pull her family and others together.

Debbie the spark plug – Debbie was constantly looking for ways to bring life and fun and happiness to those that meant the most to her.  Whether planning a birthday toga party, trips to the beach, getting out and doing something together in nature.  Whatever it was, she provided the spark, and energy which was infectious.

Debbie the adventurer – Debbie loved to travel.  From the time she was a child, she loved traveling and camping with her family.  She and I lived in Germany for 6 years while I was in the Army, and she was in her element traveling around Europe, and learning about the history and culture of the people in the different countries.  She was always passionate about learning, and travel was a great way to expand her understanding and deepen her appreciation of other cultures.

Debbie the others-focused person – The thing that strikes me most of all about Debbie is that she was always thinking about, concerned for, and doing things for others.  Debbie is the last person that Debbie thinks about.  After first hearing about her cancer diagnoses, and her very limited life expectancy, she put her focus outward.  She was so worried about her family, how was this going to affect me, our son Craig and the rest of the family.  She made it her mission to understand death. She read books on dying and grieving, and she moved forward quickly and proactively with the goal of helping her loved ones cope and ultimately thrive without her.

Debbie the animal lover – When I die, I want to come back as one of Debbie’s pets.  However, the word pet is really not accurate.  Pets were companions to Debbie, and held a very special place in her heart.  We had Otto, our rat from Experimental Psychology lab, Diamond the cat, Lorelei the poodle, and last but not least, her beloved Gustav, who was a human trapped in poodle’s clothing.   Debbie loved animals, and animals loved Debbie back.  Whether out for a walk in the neighborhood, at the dog park, at doggie play group with Debbie’s sister Brenda and her dog Phoebe, or with her sister Kathy’s dogs Lucy and Casey, or her Brother Tom’s Havanese, the dogs gravitated to Debbie, and with Debbie there is an immediate connection and trust.

Debbie the Friend and Colleague – Debbie has accomplished many things throughout her career first as and Early Childhood Educator, University Curriculum Development Professional, Human Resources Professional and finally as Senior Director for Nursing Strategy at Providence Health and Services in Renton, WA.  I could go on and on about her professional achievements.  The thing that strikes me more though are the lasting friendships she has made throughout her career.  She has not only changed the organizations she has worked at for the better, she has changed people’s lives.  Her most recent team was devastated when Debbie left work to deal with her cancer illness, and they have been a constant support to her (cards, letters, flowers, gifts, food and on-going texts, phone calls and visits).  From earlier jobs, people have come out of the woodwork and have shown the same concern, love and support for Debbie.

Debbie the Teacher/Guide – As mentioned earlier, Debbie pursued a career in Education and other Service organizations.  However, I think her example as a Teacher/Guide over the past 18 months has been even more profound.  She has taught us to embrace sadness.  She has taught us to be open and candid about our struggles and fears, and she has set an example of transparency of communication in her emails to us.  She has taught us that it is ok to talk about death and loss.  In the end, it is the family and other people we love that matter most.

Debbie leaves behind a cohort of adoring students in this world, which include her husband John, son Craig the Winckler Family, the Rosler Family and the many other relatives, friends and colleagues she has known and loved over her lifetime.

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation in Debbie’s name, a philanthropic fund has been established on the website at this web address–2/x/16479304?crossover=www.

The Deb Rosler Memorial Fund will honor Debbie’s legacy, will support programs that she was passionate about.


9 Responses to “Debbie Rosler (Winckler)”

  • Curt and Myrna Rosler says:

    Debbie meant so much to us;her parents in law. She always called us Mom and Dad and I always felt like Cupid after reconnecting her with John at Oregon State Univ. She will be in our hearts forever.

  • Rikki Pierce says:

    I have known Debbie since I was I was 13. Aside from my siblings, I’ve known her longer than any other contemporary I can think of. From the first moment I met her, I was captured by her self deprecating sense of humor and joie de vie. She never lost it. Her love for her family, life experiences and her work never flagged. The positivity she gave to others grew exponentially every year of her life. She was a natural mother and raised Craig with a fine set of principles with which to get through life, most importantly…to have FUN. I know Debbie has a special place in heaven with a beach and a camper and a squad of angels to make s’mores with her by the fire.

  • Kathy Hoffmeister says:

    I will miss my big sis. She was not only a big sister, but my best friend! I can’t imagine life without her. Although she was taken away from us way too early, it gives me comfort that she is no longer suffering. She is in heaven at her own Rainbow Bridge with her beloved Oma, Grandmother, and pets – Lorelei, Gustav, Diamond and Otto! Although she has departed from this earth, she has not left us. She is still alive in our hearts and minds and will never be forgotten! Kathy Hoffmeister

  • Judy Montgomery says:

    Debbie was my cousin. We lived across the country from one another. Though we did not get to visit often, when we did it seemed as if we had never been apart. She was such a loving soul and a joy to be around. I feel so blessed to have known her and loved her. She is dearly missed.

  • Catherine Emerick Ridgway says:

    Debbie and I met over 40 years ago in Jr high school. We were both army brats living in Ft Hood Texas and became fast friends. Debbie was pretty, smart,kind hearted and funny. We had lots of fun and got into lots of trouble together!My best memories of those years in Fort Hood include Debbie. I was fortunate to spend a day sightseeing with her in Seattle just last August for a long overdue reunion.That trip will be one of my best memories, having fun with Debbie. John, Craig, Tommy, Brenda, Kathy and Mr and Mrs Winkler, and the Rosler family, I am so sorry for your loss. The world is truly a sadder place without Debbie, less bright,less kind and less fun. I will miss her.

  • Kathy Brown says:

    I knew/worked with Debbie at Group Health years ago. I ran a large division and Debbie was one of my “go to” people in organizational development—she was smart, practical and had a great sense of humor. Beautiful tributes above—I am very sorry for your loss.

  • Linda Stedge Finch says:

    I’ve known Debbie and her family for over 42 years. The Winckler’s were my other family in Killeen/Ft Hood. I didn’t live on base, but I spent much time at the Winckler residence. Debbie’s sister Brenda was my best friend beginning in 6th grade where we both attended Avenue D Elementary School,junior high at Fairway & high school as Killeen Kangaroos.
    I didn’t get to spend as much time with Debbie,Tommy,or Kathy being that they were the “older” “cooler” kids & didn’t have much time for Brenda and me.
    Brenda would let me know what was going on with her and her siblings when I would visit, call or write.
    Whenever I hear songs by “Bread” I think of Debbie and John. John was the love of her life and she was crushed when they left Ft. Hood. I was crushed when they left Texas for Oregon dragging my best friend with them. Oregon is a beautiful place with lots of great people like the Wincklers. I know Debbie is missed by many. I send my love and prayers to her family members. Linda, San Marcos Texas

  • Phil and Gayle Courts says:

    We didn’t know Debbie but as very old and long time friends of Curt and Myrna we knew the Rosler kids from afar. We knew of John and Debbies love for each other and the fight that Debbie put into defeating her cancer. We admired the life choices that Debbie made and how their strong love for each other kept John and Debbie grounded. We send our love and good will for John and Craig and God Speed to Debbie. Sincerely, The Courts.

  • Tom Cary says:

    Deb and I worked together at City University. We co-wrote and presented a paper in Orlando. Neither one of us had seen Disneyworld, but didn’t want to pay for it. So we pretended we were husband and wife (actually both happily married to our own spouses) and attended a time share presentation together to get tickets to Disneyworld. Debs mischievous sense of humor had a chance to shine. It was memorable.

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