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Rosenbushes donate building to city

Bert and Mary Louise Rosenbush can’t be considered intimidating types. They are calm and adoring to each other, grasping each other’s hand out of sheer admiration for the other.

On Friday, it was made public that the city of Demopolis has received one of those admiring grasps from the Rosenbush family, and the magnitude of the gift can only be considered intimidating.

Bert Rosenbush Jr. and his wife, Mary Louise, have donated their entire store building on Walnut Avenue and Main Street to the city of Demopolis.

In a litany of family history dating to the 19th Century, Mr. Rosenbush said his family has always called Demopolis home, and he wanted to give something back to the community.

The longtime Demopolis couple thought about Mayor Austin Caldwell’s letter, yet they did have some interest from potential buyers.

That was all it took.

And will it ever do some good.

The city recently approved renovations for the old church that adjoins City Hall on Walnut Avenue. Because of the work that will begin there within the next month, the public safety, fire department and horticulture department will be forced to move around.

According to Caldwell, the Rosenbush building may make the perfect place for a downtown fire station along with an office for the public safety department.

When asked his reaction to the Rosenbush’s gift, Caldwell said he wasn’t really surprised.

Bert Rosenbush said the gift was deserved.

As part of their gift to the city, Bert and Mary Louise will deed both the 20,000-square-foot two-story building that fronts Walnut Avenue. They also will deed to the city the 10,000-square-foot building that fronts Main Street. Caldwell said that may make a perfect place to put the downtown fire station.

And the gift isn’t exactly a pile of garbage, either. When Rosenbush purchased the old Merchant’s Grocery building 25 years ago, he hired Junior Brooker to remodel the entire building, "from top to bottom," Rosenbush said.

Caldwell believes the building is in splendid shape.

Before the enormous gift can be deeded to the city, Rosenbush said there are some personal items in the building that will have to be moved and sold. Among those items are a number of vehicles and a boat, along with an array of Rosenbush’s late mother’s furniture.

According to Rosenbush, the two buildings could have sold for somewhere close to $500,000, though he plans to get it appraised before the actual deed is given to the city.

As part of the gift, the city of Demopolis will name its latest addition the "Rosenbush Building." Bert and Mary Louise Rosenbush also have asked that family portraits be hung inside the building and that a plaque be placed at the front of the building saying that the two had given the building to the city.

Those seem like small gestures for a gift that has enabled the city to vastly upgrade its facilities.

And Caldwell said that isn’t all that will happen to the building in honor of the Rosenbushes.

Bert Rosenbush Jr. is the only Jew still living in Marengo County. He travels to a temple in Tuscaloosa for his service, and Caldwell said he will look at dedicating a room in the building to a museum.

For Bert Rosenbush Jr., who is headed on a Southwestern bus tour with his wife in the next week, the museum would only serve as icing to a wonderful career in Demopolis.

And that’s kind of what he’s done with one of the largest gifts the city of Demopolis has ever received.