Rose Bronson’s family often refers to their matriarch as “Big Mama.”
But the Pullman resident, who turned 100 years old on Monday, Aug. 23, is anything but big.
Rather, she is petite, soft-spoken and revered by her offspring, who treated her to an afternoon meal as a celebration at Golden Brown Bakery in South Haven.
They chose the popular bakery because Rose, who earned her nickname from her daughter, worked at Golden Brown as a baker for more than two decades. She retired 35 years ago at the age of 65.
She performed a variety of baking tasks while employed at Golden Brown Bakery, but the task she appeared to be best suited for was making pies.
“She made the prettiest pie crimps,” said granddaughter Sheila Kelsor of Covert.
Golden Brown Bakery owner Dave Braschler, who grew up in the business alongside his father, Don Braschler, remembers Rose Bronson well.
“Rose was like a grandma to me,” he said. “She taught me how to bake pies. All the fruit pies are her recipes.”
Speaking with Bronson’s family members, they’re not surprised that she chose to work at a bakery where she immersed herself in preparing pies, donuts and the large signature cinnamon crispies – which she hand-rolled until the bakery bought a machine to do so.
“Everything she cooks with has sugar in it,” Kelsor said with a laugh. “Cabbage had sugar with it. Spaghetti sauce had sugar. Even the Kool-Aid had extra sugar.”
Rose Bronson and her husband, William Bronson Sr., first came to South Haven from Marianna, Ark., during the late 1950s.
Her husband, who was a minister, built and became minister of Mt. Calvary Missionary Church in Pullman. William Bronson Sr. also built the couple’s home.
He has since died. Now, the Rev. Charles Knox serves as pastor and knows Rose Bronson well.
“She’s been there as long as I have,” said Knox, who attended Rose’s birthday celebration on Monday. “She sings in the choir and she’s on the church board. We listen to whatever she says.”
Over the years, Bronson has seen many of her offspring grow up and has helped to guide them along the way. Her great-great-great-grandson, Damien Anderson of South Haven, was one of the offspring attending Monday’s birthday celebration.
A gesture that pleased Bronson and, according to her, is one of her secrets to longevity.
“Loving my grandchildren, watching them and taking care of them,” she said. “The greats, the great-greats and the great-great-greats.”