Car Accident Kills Former Hill Staffer Sarah Rosen, 28

Posted October 5, 2005 at 6:20pm

Sarah Rosen, a former Capitol Hill press secretary whose effervescent personality earned her a wide circle of friends, died last week. She was 28.

Rosen, communications director for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, was leading a delegation of journalists on a tour of historic distilleries in Kentucky on Friday when a pickup truck collided with the vehicle in which she was traveling. She was killed instantly.

“She was extremely vibrant, a very good writer and showed excellent public affairs judgment,” said DISCUS President and CEO Peter Cressy, who called Rosen’s death “devastating.”

A true-blue Democrat, Rosen arrived on Capitol Hill in late 2002 as a press secretary to Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and later served as communications director to Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). In 2004, she moved to Arizona to head up the state Democratic Party’s communications efforts during the presidential election. Prior to arriving on the Hill, she handled press for the campaigns of Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Ira Shapiro, a Democratic Congressional candidate in Maryland, and had served as an assistant producer for NBC’s “Dateline.”

“She was the youth of the Capitol,” Farr said. “To me, she represented … young people who come to Washington for the excitement of it all.”

A “larger than life” young woman, Rosen was known to break into song during the workday (she was a former member of the Congressional Chorus) and had a talent for organizing social outings for her friends and colleagues, said Farr Chief of Staff Rochelle Dornatt.

A few years ago, Rosen convinced a group of female staffers in Farr’s office, ranging in age from their early 20s to their 50s, to attend a Cher concert. “There were six of us all dancing around in pink tops,” Dornatt recalled. “She would bully you into having a good time.”

Outside of work, Rosen was active in WIN Pro-Choice Democratic Women’s Network, and with the charities Coaching for College and Dress for Success. After Hurricane Katrina, she began doing volunteer press work for the American Red Cross. During Rosen’s time with the Congressional Chorus she had served as the group’s press person, and had succeeded in getting one of the group’s performances featured as a weekend pick in The Washington Post, said chorus Executive Director Harlie Sponaugle, adding that it was “a coup … not accomplished since.” Rosen had run the Marine Corps Marathon, was certified in scuba and was an ardent fan of Broadway musicals.

“She doesn’t just sip life, she gulps it,” her father, Sam Rosen, said.

Rosen, whose enthusiasm for new opportunities frequently led her to switch jobs, was finally “coming into her own” and settling down, Dornatt said. Rosen had a boyfriend she adored and had recently purchased a condominium in Logan Circle.

“She had created her own identity. It was all of that bigger, better, louder Sarah that we all loved. … There was more life out there, and she was going to find it,” Dornatt added.

Rosen had taken the GRE and was hoping to attend graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, her father noted.

A native of New York City, Rosen attended Stuyvesant High School and earned a bachelor’s in international relations from Tufts University.

Rosen is survived by her parents, Sam and Edna of New York City, and a sister, Adrienne.

A memorial service for Rosen, who was buried earlier this week, will be held today at 11 a.m. at the DISCUS office, at 1250 Eye St. NW. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Coaching for College (www.coachingforcollege.org) and Dress for Success (www.dressforsuccess.org).