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'Rosie's Run' honors caring woman shot while walking dogs

Over the years, Jamie and Rosie Billquist became regular customers at Miller's Greenhouse. That little business, operated by an Amish family, sells vegetables and flowers to travelers passing through Chautauqua County.

Jamie stopped in not long ago to buy some plants for the garden around his house. The greenhouse owner, recognizing him, asked if the Amish community could make a donation toward a first-time road race that Jamie has spent much of this year helping to organize.

So baked goods made in Amish kitchens will be available Sunday at Rosie's Run, set for 9 a.m. in Sherman. The event will offer courses of both 5 and 10 kilometers, with much of the route mapped out on trails Rosie used to run with her dogs.

To Jamie, it is an example of the way the larger area has embraced the race.

"They've been great," Jamie said of his Amish neighbors. "Everyone's been great."

He has no doubt: That passionate response is a result of the impression left by his wife on just about everyone she met. Rosie worked for years in health information management at UPMC Chautauqua WCA hospital, in Jamestown.

Jamie Billquist and his wife Rosemary, a marathon runner: Races in honor of a woman

In her spare time, when Rosie was not training for marathons, she would visit elderly people who rarely had company, or men and women in hospice care. She also did whatever she could to help abandoned animals, and family pets always came straight from animal shelters.

That included Stella and Sugar, the couple's two dogs. Last fall, on a November evening, Rosie was walking the dogs in a field near her home when she was shot to death, in the darkness, by a neighbor.

Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office investigators said Thomas Jadlowski, 34, told them he fired his gun because he believed Rosemary was a deer. He faces charges that include manslaughter.

While Jamie Billquist waits for a disposition to that case, he does his best to find peace by staying busy. He is part of a small committee, for instance, that has spent at least four months preparing for Sunday's race in Sherman.

Sean Kirst: To understand shooting victim Rosemary Billquist, meet her dogs

Jamie said top finishers in each age bracket Sunday will receive medals crafted on machines owned by Jarred Warner, an old friend. The logo was drawn in Rosie's honor by Sherri Rater, a frequent running companion.

The Sherman race will raise money for the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, which will distribute the proceeds to Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care, the Chautauqua County Humane Association and the Southern Tier Kidney Association.

It will be followed June 9 by a second run in Rosie's honor, a "Be Kind 5K" in Falconer. Jamie said that event will raise scholarship money for students seeking careers in Rosie's specialties, transcription and medical records.

Jamie thinks often of how much his wife managed to accomplish in 43 years, of the selfless ideals she lived out every day — and he wonders about the best, most lasting way of sustaining all she did.

"The way she lived, it's already reached a lot of lives," Jamie said. "I'd like to think she can still reach many more."

Sean Kirst is a columnist for The Buffalo News; email him at skirst@buffnews.com or read more of his work in this archive.

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