b. November 4, 1923 Nogales
d. June 22, 2002 Los Angeles
Architect, artist, photographer,
monologist, memoirist and
collector of Western Jewish Americana
One of the many interests that my husband and I shared was a passion for Western Jewish History, which culminated in the co-authoring of Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West, in print at Houghton Mifflin since 1984. His specialty was Southwestern Jewish history, particularly early Arizona. His birthplace lies 60 miles south of Tucson on the United States-Mexico border. While in high school, Fred discovered that Nogales was founded by a Jewish merchant, Jacob Isaacson. Fascinated with the budding history of Jews in the West, Fred gathered extensive information on Isaacson and his family. From there, he continued his search to include more than a dozen early Nogales Jewish pioneers. Growing in size and scope, Fred's research on Southwestern history -- general and Jewish -- became an important archival resource for historians. The collections he left include 963 photographs of Nogales, and 386 photos of pioneer Jews in the Southwest and Sonora, Mexico, the Mexican Revolution, as well as rare books, historical compilations, manuscripts, bibliographies, journals and postcards. Some of these materials relating to his research on the Southwestern Jewish community are included in The Fred Rochlin Papers at the University of Arizona Library. Other materials are currently being inventoried for donation to appropriate university special collections.
After retiring from architectural practice, Fred wrote and performed a monologue on his experiences as a navigator in Italy during World War II. The show was lauded first by the New York Times Arts in America critic, Bruce Weber, then in newspapers throughout the country. A resulting book and audio, Old Man In A Baseball Cap, was released by HarperCollins in 2000. The monologue opens with the following passage:
"My name is Fred Rochlin. I was born and raised near Nogales, Arizona. My parents had emigrated from Russia. I had two brothers and two sisters. I was the youngest. We lived in the country. We had chickens and turkeys and a black and white Holstein cow named Bossy. Nogales had about 5,000 people in it. It had a school and a library and a city hall and a county courthouse. It was a ranching and mining and railroad center and a border town. I liked Nogales. I thought it was a nice town. I had a summer job working in the stockyards. In high school, I was sort of a flash. At graduation, I got to join the National Honor Society. I went to the University of Arizona and I majored in civil engineering because that's what my two brothers had done. I thought that was the right thing to do. When I got there, I found that I couldn't pass algebra, couldn't pass calculus, chemistry, surveying, physics, differential equations. I couldn't pass a damn thing. I was flunking out and that would be a big scandal in my family. I was getting desperate. I didn't know what to do. That December, the Japanese government saw fit to bomb Pearl Harbor. So, next month, January, two weeks before finals, I got very patriotic and I went down and enlisted in the Army Air Corps."