Woman reflects on fostering 79 newborn babies

LAKEVILLE, Ind. (WNDU) -- In Lakeville, Indiana, there’s a 96-year-old mother and grandmother, blessed many times over with scores of children who will never know her name.

Back in the day, Rose Culp was a foster mother for newborn babies. Through the years, her heart made room not for just a handful of infants, but an astonishing 79 babies.

She has baby books that are filled with pictures: one for boys and one for girls.

“Oh look, he's yawning,” said Rose as she admired a picture of a boy named Joseph. “Very fussy baby.”

Each page features a picture and notes on a different baby.

“Robert weighed 13 pounds,” Rose said. “Wow. He was a chunker!”

As an infant foster mother, Rose gave these babies a great start in life, from a few days to a few months, whatever was needed.

“If they brought them in for two weeks or two days or sometimes one day, and they'd call and say, ‘Well, you're going to have to have them a little bit longer,’” said Rose.

She gave them names while she had them, following the alphabet several times over.

“You know, it was hard to find babies (names) sometimes,” admitted Rose as she complained about the letters Q,V and Z.

The memories are often bittersweet.

When the feisty Italian Rose Rallo met and married Army Master Sergeant Norbert Grzesiak, it was meant to be. But sadly, children were not.

Norbert came back from the war unable to father children, so they adopted through Catholic Charities.

And then tragedy struck.

Norbert died of a brain tumor. In her grief, Rose found love again when Catholic Charities asked her to help by taking in babies.

“Because they needed foster mothers for these babies and I said ‘Yeah!’ It was life-saving,” said Rose. “I had no time to worry about Rose. There was always one or two babies crying. People don't always realize how wonderful babies are. They save your life.”

And she saved theirs.

For about a 10-year period from the mid 1960s to 1975, she cuddled, swaddled and loved someone else's bundle of joy.

Sometimes she'd have three!

“You know there's always a way. You've got three babies in the house, you're going to take care of three babies. You find a way,” said Rose. “I’d have the bottles ready. Warm them up. Feed one, burp it, lay it down, feed this one, burp it, lay it down. (It) took three trips because when this one was fed, this one was crying, so it took three trips to get them all filled up.”

“You have no idea how much you can love those babies. They're all precious, except for horrible Ivan,” laughed Rose.

Ivan was a baby who cried a lot.

“I told the doctor, ‘He can't cry like that all the time. Something's wrong,’” said Rose. She said the doctor reassured her by saying some babies just do that.

Rose admitted that she sometimes got too attached.

“That was the bad part,” said Rose. “Sometimes I’d just cry for three days afterwards.”

When it came time to give each baby up, Rose always said a prayer.

“Dear Lord, please give them a good life. If they can't be loved and taken care of, bring them back to me. I always tell him that,” said Rose.

While none of the babies came back, she does hope they’ve had wonderful lives.

“They don't have to be billionaires, just comfortable,” Rose said. “And have a good life. What could be better?”

Those 79 babies are now somewhere between 43 and 53 years old. Rose has no idea where they ended up, and they didn't keep their names after they left her.

This Mother’s Day, Rose heard from plenty of family and friends. She has four children, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Read the original version of this article at wndu.com.