Bruce Wilson and Annie Prince
I met Joris Rosse in the summer of 1979 shortly after I started dating my wife Annie Prince. Annie & I were married at his home on Creek Road in 1980, where he lived with Gloria Leight who was Annie’s best friend. Our wedding was the first major event at his farm.
When Joris died on February 26, 2021, having recently turned 91, we reminisced about the incredible influence he had on our lives.
Joris came to Lehigh University to work in the building planning and design department. As a native of the Netherlands, and into green concepts early on, he promoted the adaptive reuse of buildings. When the time came to build a new chemistry building, Joris oversaw the conversion of the Chandler-Ullman building to a mixed use building where the arts department became based, as well as numerous classrooms, lecture halls and offices. His disagreements with the Provost about saving buildings rather than tearing them down to build new ones so as to show the alumni donors “progress”, led to his being fired. Lehigh’s loss was the Lehigh Valley’s gain because Joris focused his life on education and advocacy for the environment and sustainability. He fought to stop the building of a waste incinerator at the Bethlehem Landfill, and the experience he gained in community building during that process caused him to embrace the suggestion by Martin Boksenbaum and Jerry Brunetti for the creation of the Alliance for Sustainable Communities-Lehigh Valley which he agreed to be based at his house.
His adaptive reuse of the barn on his property into his residence later became the home of the Morning Star Center, where the Alliance was based. He was a renowned ceramic artist, having built a pottery studio in his basement, with a large gas kiln, and his work is still coveted by collectors today. While Joris was a realtor for a short time in the early 80’s, he sold us our house in West Bethlehem in 1980. The big 1905 Victorian house was condemned and all boarded up, on 2 ½ acres of land with the ruins of a stone barn from the 1800’s, from what had been a 25 acre farm. He loved the idea of preserving an urban farm, where we grew organic vegetables for restaurants & had community gardens & started the first experimental CSA in the U.S. founded by Jan Vandertuin who moved here from Switzerland. We spent the next 27 years working on the house & gardens, and Joris was proud to have been the impetus for it all.
For the celebration for his 90th birthday, I baked a large loaf of sprouted wheat sourdough bread which he loved and said reminded him of bread he ate as a child in the Netherlands. That’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever been given. We will always have a special place in our hearts for Joris, for being an exceptional role model always encouraging all of us to live a greener, more sustainable life.
Annie Prince is an Independent Producer of Music, Film, TV & Radio Productions & Special Events in the U.S. & the U.K. since 1984. As a fundraiser & grant writer, she serves as the Director of Development for Peace & Reconciliation, Peace Education, & Leadership Development Programs for non-profit organizations in Northern Ireland.
Bruce Wilson, LEED Accredited Professional, is a general contractor specializing in green building, energy improvements to existing buildings, and historic preservation. He has been educating about green building and climate change for over 10 years and is a frequent contributor to Sustainable Lehigh Valley.