From political rivalry to a personal bond

State Sen. Jim Beach and Susan Rose. After Rose lost a daughter in a car accident, he reached out. Together they help others.
State Sen. Jim Beach and Susan Rose. After Rose lost a daughter in a car accident, he reached out. Together they help others. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 11, 2013

Jim Beach changed Susan Rose's life. Twice.

In 1995, the veteran Democrat was elected Camden County register of deeds, thwarting Rose's bid for a second term.

"Up to that point," says Rose, a Cherry Hill Republican and one of my oldest friends, "it was the most devastating blow of my life."

But in 1999, the eldest of her four daughters, Lauren Rose Albert, 40, died when a vehicle in which she was a passenger tumbled down a hillside in Morocco. The mother of three had been on vacation with her husband, Todd A. Albert, chairman of orthopedics at the Rothman Institute.

Grief-stricken, Rose was struggling to establish a charitable foundation in Lauren's memory when she received a handwritten note of encouragement from Beach.

From that simple gesture has arisen an unlikely, and refreshingly bipartisan, alliance that continues to thrive.

"We had lunch, and she sat across the table from me with her shoulders slumped," recalls Beach, now a state senator representing Camden County. The Voorhees resident, 67, was reelected to a third term Nov. 5.

"Susan was broken," Beach says. "But she's become a dynamo."

"Jim helped me get up out of my rocking chair," says Rose, now the president of the Lauren Rose Albert Foundation. Her husband, Stuart, their three daughters, and a number of their grandchildren also are volunteers with the organization.

The work of family and friends gained momentum in large part, Rose says, due to Beach's networking and fund-raising skills. And he assembled a group of human-services professionals, clergy, and others who met monthly for a year and generated countless ideas.

'Through the cracks'

"I knew from my years in government that women in need often fall through the cracks," Rose says, "and I wanted to create something that would help women, and mothers, who couldn't find help anywhere else."

The all-volunteer foundation provides needy women who are the heads of their households with college textbook scholarships and emergency grants. "It's the sort of thing Lauren would have done," Rose says.

Through its signature project, Mothers Matter, the foundation also distributes Mother's Day gift baskets (nearly 25,000 so far) to women in homeless shelters, hospitals, hospices, and other facilities. It provides "career clothing" to 30 to 40 job-seeking women annually.

'A blessing'

And as it grows - the foundation has so far provided textbook scholarships for 700 students at five South Jersey community colleges, as well as Rowan University - Beach continues to pitch in.

"Because Susan is such a special person, it was my intention from the beginning to do more than raise money through a single golf tournament," he says. "And when you're talking about helping people in need, who doesn't want to participate?"

The foundation's assistance "has been a blessing," says Bridgeton resident and textbook scholarship recipient Chris-Anne Fox, who earned an associate's degree from Cumberland County College.

Says Tina West, 48, of Burlington City: "I was a single mom, recently divorced, studying for my associate's degree. And I had no money for books."

Now the assistant to the vice president of the Student Success Initiative at Burlington County College, her alma mater, West says the foundation "helped me when I was desperate."

On Friday, a foundation fund-raiser at Tavistock will pay tribute to Beach. Mark Lohbauer, a longtime volunteer who also was unseated (as a county freeholder) by Beach and the Democrats in the early 1990s, calls his erstwhile political rival "a terrific friend" to the foundation.

"When you get to know somebody, it's hard to be their enemy," says Lohbauer, a consultant whom Gov. Christie appointed chairman of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission.

Says Rose: "Before I met Jim, I really didn't like him, because I loved being register of deeds. But after I got to know him, I would have voted for him."

Beach quips, "Let's just say I'm glad I didn't know Susan before the election."


kriordan@phillynews.com

856-779-3845 @inqkriordan

www.inquirer.com/blinq

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