Rose Nader; Activist In Conn. Home Town

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Rose Nader, 99, who jousted with politicians and complacency as a small-town activist and was the mother of consumer advocate Ralph Nader, died Jan. 20 at her home in Winsted, Conn. She had congestive heart failure.

Mrs. Nader developed a certain civic renown in 1955 when she confronted Sen. Prescott Bush (R-Conn.), the father and grandfather of presidents.

Bush's visit to Winsted followed a catastrophic flood, and he was approached by Mrs. Nader at a public gathering. When he offered his hand in an obligatory fashion, Mrs. Nader latched on and refused to free him until he promised to help a dry-dam proposal move forward. This was fulfilled.

Later, she advocated building a community center for children, forming a speakers club that would bring worldly lecturers to the town, and expanding and preserving a local hospital.

At home, she could be implacable, particularly about food. She emphasized homemade items over packaged goods whose contents she found bewildering. She prohibited hot dogs and later beef in general because of the presence of a growth-stimulating hormone linked to cancer.

She sweetened food with honey, not sugar, and pushed her children to eat chickpeas instead of candy bars on their way to school. When news of this was publicized during Ralph Nader's rise to prominence, the Wall Street Journal editorial page likened his mother to a Puritan.

This characterization was laughed at by her children, even as they promoted the story involving her distrustful relationship with chocolate.

Mrs. Nader later said: "When the children convinced me that chocolate-frosted birthday cakes were what all the other children wanted, I frosted the cake, but after the candles were blown out and before they cut into the cake, I removed the frosting. Some people might say I was severe, but it became a family joke."

She later wrote a cookbook.

Rose Bouziane was born in Zahle, Lebanon, on Feb. 7, 1906, to a sheep broker and a teacher. She taught high school French and Arabic before her marriage in 1925 to businessman Nathra Nader.

After immigrating to the United States, they settled in Connecticut, where his Main Street bakery-restaurant-general store in Winsted, in the northwestern corner of the state, became a redoubt for residents bemoaning actions or inactions at the town hall.

On occasion, Mrs. Nader used newspaper opinion pages to express her views.

Writing in the New York Times in 1982, she denounced the use of "credibility phrases," such as "frankly," "to tell you the truth" and "in all honesty," that sometimes preceded a political statement or sales pitch. They gave her "the pervasive feeling that distrust is so widespread that people need to use such language to be believed."

In another editorial, she embraced mass mailings from issue groups that are commonly dismissed as "junk mail." She wrote that they often come from people "who care about their times."

Her husband died in 1991. A son, Shafeek Nader, died in 1986.

Besides Ralph Nader of Washington, survivors include two daughters, Claire Nader of Washington and Winsted and Laura Nader of Berkeley, Calif.; a sister; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Ralph Nader once said his mother "took us out in the yard one day and asked us if we knew the price of eggs, of apples, of bananas. Then she asked us to put a price on clean air, the sunshine, the song of birds -- and we were stunned."

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