Unlike the Dr. Seuss character, Rosemary LaDuke probably had no idea all of the places she’d go and the things she’d accomplish when she started working for Upjohn right out of college in 1965.
She began her 31-year career in marketing in Kalamazoo, Michigan, handling the Upjohn exhibits at medical association meetings and trade shows in the United States.
With the exception of a brief assignment as an Occasional Research Person in toxicology research, Rosemary spent most of her career in marketing and advertising. She was the first female global advertising manager at Upjohn, and eventually became director of Global Marketing Communications at Upjohn and later Pharmacia.
Through the many corporate transformations – from Upjohn to Upjohn & Pharmacia and then just Pharmacia – Rosemary honed her marketing skills in many different environments. Those skills took her from Kalamazoo to Peapack, NJ, throughout Europe, and on to activities in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.
During that time Rosemary achieved another first – the start of Upjohn’s first global exhibit program. She calls this her proudest moment. “It was really fun to do. I had experience from doing the U.S. exhibits, and they wanted to start an exhibit program on a global basis. We started in Europe on a small scale and it grew into huge exhibits in various countries and locations at international medical associations.”
Looking back on those years, Rosemary has no problem remembering what she enjoyed most: the people.
“I worked a lot with marketing people from different countries and I enjoyed the contact. There were many longtime friendships,” she said.
The depth of those friendships showed when Rosemary developed breast cancer in 1997. “I was waiting one morning in my hospital bed, and I had my laptop with me. I opened it up and saw all of these messages from all over the world. The marketing guys were all wishing me well. It was quite moving.”
It was Rosemary’s battle with cancer that foreshadowed how she would later spend her retirement years. She remembers a conversation with her oncologist in which the doctor voiced regret that she didn’t often get a chance to know her patients and what they contributed to the world.
“She really got me thinking about the need to give something back,” Rosemary said.
Subsequently, Rosemary became involved with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. While still living in New Jersey, Rosemary financially supported the Southwest Michigan Affiliate, in hopes that the fledgling organization would flourish and be there when she someday returned to Michigan. When she returned to Michigan for vacations and holidays, she attended events and board meetings. Her fellow breast cancer survivors and friends in Michigan kept her informed about the organization’s progress. Her four children and their families even participated in the Michigan Race for the Cure in her honor.
When Rosemary retired from Pharmacia in 2000 and moved back to Michigan with her husband, the Southwest Michigan Affiliate asked her to join its board – and she did.
She’s worn many hats since then. She started as vice president of the local chapter, then became president. When a new president was chosen, she became acting executive director – a title she holds today. “I was chief cook and bottlewasher. It was a small organization, so you did everything.”
Rosemary proudly notes that the local affiliate has grown significantly over the years. It’s clear that the marketing skills Rosemary learned in the corporate world have contributed to that growth and success. She used those skills to create Mammograms Matter®, a program that provided gift cards as an incentive to encourage women who turned 40 to get their first mammogram. Rosemary also helped develop the Pink Saturdays for the Cure program that pays for free mammograms for women who are uninsured. This program scored another “first” for Rosemary – the first time all 19 hospitals in the southwest Michigan areas have collaborated on such a project. The program won an award from the Michigan Cancer Consortium.
Rosemary’s achievements have won her a national volunteer award from Komen for the Cure and the internationally recognized Athena Award from the Kalamazooo Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2008.
But life in retirement isn’t all work. Rosemary makes plenty of time for golf, pottery, jewelry-making, and her children and grandchildren. She and her husband are “snowbirds,” spending summers in Kalamazoo and winters in their home in Florida.
"It’s a great variety for us. There’s no way to get bored.”
You can hear the smile in her voice. “Retirement is absolutely wonderful. It couldn’t be any better.”