Last night at Norway Speedway in Michigan, the show car circuit lost a man that was probably one of the greatest showmen of his time, my ex husband, Doug Rose.

Born on December 6th, 1937 to Jim and Dorothy Rose of Milwaukee Wisconsin, Doug was his mother's middle child. Geoffrey was his oldest brother, and after her divorce from Jim, Dorothy remarried and had a third son, Charlie.

Dorothy ended up raising the boys on her own and struggled her way to the top of the real estate profession in Milwaukee. Dorthy was a force to be reckoned with.

Doug spent some time in the Navy (1958-1961) and when he got out, he went to work doing track photography at Union Grove Wisconsin's, Great Lakes Dragaway.

It was there that Doug met half brothers, Walt and Art Arfons and he fell in love with Jet Cars.

Art was known as the king of jet cars and the king of junk.
Art would put jet engines in the craziest things to see how fast he/they could go.
Doug chased the Green Monster and the Cyclops of the Arfons brothers around the USA until finally Walt and Art allowed him to drive. He and Bobbie Tatroe who often drove the Cyclops, (Bobby also drove the Exodus) chased each other around the country putting on shows for the drag racing fans of the US of A.

His first wife, Stephanie was a beautiful blonde from Missouri and she saw him though one of the darkest periods of his life, losing his legs during a July 4th race in Richland Virginia in 1966.

Partially because of his character, but also because of her encouragement, Doug got back in a jet car quickly.

That September, Doug was back racing the Monster, but after a disagreement over wages, he decided to strike out on his own and build his own Jet Car, he quit racing for the Arfons family in 1967.

He moved to California.

Broadway Bob Metzler (Photo: Wisconsin Hot Rod Radio)
at Doug Rose's home track Great Lakes Dragaway
By 1968 Doug was commanding his own Jet Car, the Green Mamba, named after the venomous tree snake that causes death in 90 seconds. Do you remember the window louvers that were so popular in the 70's and 80's? A man named Dick "Korky" Korkes of Korky's Kustom Studios - was their creator and he is the man who did the paint on the Mamba. 24 Karat Gold Leaf inlaid, with moana pearl paint (crushed moana pearls were mixed in an icy white paint) for the eyes.
The Mamba literally watched you everywhere you went.

Doug was one of the most talented Jet Car jockeys to ever strap into a car.
He knew his car so intimately that triple zero reaction times were his norm and the man set hundreds of track and world records.

I was Doug's middle wife.  He and I were only a very tiny, albeit important, chapter in his very big, bold 80 year life.

I met Doug in 1979 at Edmonton International Speedway.
I had just graduated the year before and moved to Edmonton and had begun hanging out at the drag strip.

My girlfriend Dana Eva Leskovski was who Doug was interested in, but Dana was not reciprocating and so every time he called our apartment, I ended up talking to Doug for hours.
In 1980 Doug flew me into Salt Lake City and there I met his Crewman Frenchie (AKA John Archer). I fell in love with the salt flats, racing and all of the commotion and people. I travelled with them back to California, stopping to race twice along the way. I loved the life, Doug could see it and he asked me to come back, to live in Los Angeles with him.

I was young, impetuous and I ended up moving to California and for the next 3.5 years I crewed on the Mamba. We travelled 100K miles each summer and I gotta tell you it was culture shock that first year. I was 20, had no clue what big city living was. I learned a lot that first season.

Going from California where I learned how to use and pack a weapon to the mid west and meeting the indomitable woman who would become my mother in law to spending three months in the deep south and the hairy stuff I learned while there and then a month in Texas and finally heading home to California.

I came into Doug's life just before the NHRA outlawed his car on their drag strips for being too old and being made of mild steel instead of chrome moly. His career was hitting a wall for a variety of reasons.  Most of it;  he was stubborn.  He had become an amateur metallurgist and he knew that his square tubed, mild steel car was just fine - but even with frame X-rays done at a military base, the NHRA wasn't budging and Doug didn't have the money to build a new car.  In spite of it all, Doug and I raced and performed exhibitions at all sorts of racetracks - oval and drag.

I learned to eat foods like gator and snake, learned a lot about being a jet engine tech and a crew chief and I experienced all sorts of craziness.

One of our very first official outings as a couple saw us at an Arabian restaurant at a birthday party for one of the multitude of Doug's friends.

We were all on pillows, at a very low table, Doug was sitting at the end of the table as he couldn't cross his legs.

The poor waitress kept tripping over Doug's feet as she would cut the corner of our table on her way to the kitchen since no one was sitting there.  After her third time tripping over his feet, she asked Doug if he could please move his feet and when he complied, she almost passed out from embarrassment.  She had come by the table, and when she didn't trip, she thanked him for moving his feet, he said no problem, I put them in the corner. And he literally had put them in the corner.

Doug was a consumate showman.  

All he cared about was making that crowd and that track promoter happy. If he could do that, then he knew they'd have him back. If they'd have him back, that meant that he could be in the cockpit of his beloved Mamba going fast and blowing stuff up.

Doug genuinely loved what he did and while there are a lot of reasons why I am his Ex wife, (some belonging to him, some belonging to me), there truly was a lot I admired about the man.
His sense of humour and sense of adventure are top of that list.

Because of my brief marriage to Doug Rose, I got to know people that I had idolized as a kid growing up on a farm in Alberta. Folks like Don and Pat Garlits, Chris Karamesines, Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen,  Johnny Force, TV Tommy Ivo, Craig Breedlove and his wife Lee, Ky the Rocket Man Michaelson and so many, many more.

Because of Doug, I saw shuttle launchings and landings, several of them.
I went to NASA, several times and not just on tours.
I experienced one on one time with Tammy Wynette, one of my she-roes in Orlando because of him.
I met Tom T Hall, Dan Haggerty & Gentle Ben and so many more.
I also had Dorothy Rose as a mother in law, a woman I loved and admired with all my heart.

And he also gave me the biggest gift of my life.

Doug and his daughter Nickey (AKA Jin Jin)
On September 16th, 1984 Doug and I had a daughter, (Jonique Marie Rose AKA Nickey).

After Doug and I divorced, he married his childhood friend, Wally Oestreich's daughter Jeanne.

I wasn't very happy when it first happened, but I have come to understand a lot about life in my 40's and 50's that eluded me in my 20's.

Jeanne and Doug really truly loved each other and love knows no age, no bounds, no restrictions.

It will find its way no matter what.

Because of Doug, my daughter has "brothers" and "sisters" that I could never give her and a whole host of "moms" like Beth and Joanne...and Jeanne, Jeanne loves Nickey and Nickey loves her.

There was a time when I cursed and railed at Doug for being the worst thing that happened to me, but as I grew up and grabbed a brain, I realized he was responsible for a lot of the good that has happened in my life.

Doug Rose was courageous and funny, determined and hard working, hard headed - hell even pig headed. He was a consummate showman, one of the greatest of his era and he brought a lot of people to their feet and made them smile and ooooh and awe in wonderment.

He loved being a Jet Car Jockey and he died doing what he loved.

Rest in Peace Douglas Yates Rose.

My condolences to Jeanne and "our' daughter Nickey Ball.

Belt Drive Betty
Editor & Rider

From Ky Michaelson's Web Page - The Rocketman

Orange County International, 1983, this was the last race I attended at this track.
Doug's reaction time was a tad off but still better than Bill's

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  1. Very interesting read and tks for sharing this :) Rather sad he passed :(

  2. Thank you so much for sharing.