Rose “Rusty” Petro, born in Philadelphia to parents from County Donegal, Ireland - is one of the founders of the Pittsburgh Ceili Club.
Her father, John Gallagher immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island in 1909. Her mother, Maryann, immigrated through the same route only one year later. Unknowingly and surprisingly, both parents never met until they settled in Philadelphia - even though they were born in the same part of Ireland.
“It turned out that County Donegal is very mountainous, so the place where my mother grew up is on the other side of the mountain where my father was from,” Rose said. “They didn’t meet in Ireland, they met in Philadelphia, it’s amazing.”
Growing up as the youngest of seven, Rose learned traditional Irish dances from her parents.
“As children, we danced at home in the kitchen,” Rose mused. “They showed me the traditional country dances, and eventually set me up with step dancing lessons as I got older.”
Rose’s passion for dancing became a constant presence in her life. As a teenager, she went to social dances with friends and classmates.
“Once we heard of a dance, we would go and that’s how we started doing the sets,” she said. “The sets are like square-dancing – the form of dancing that came from the British Isles.”
In 1972, after moving to Pittsburgh, Rose began teaching dance to her own children.
“One night after I came to Pittsburgh, I met a family and the mother wanted her little girls to learn to dance,” Rose said. “They came over one Sunday night and I taught them all my step dancing.”
Her time teaching dance took a surprising turn in the late 80s.
“Around 1989 or 1990 there was a group of people that wanted to do more of the adult dancing,” Rose said. “Eventually we formed the Pittsburgh Ceili Club.”
Still involved in the club, Rose assumed the title of Vice President for a number of years. She continues to attend meetings and events when she can, and is planning to attend the organization’s general election in June.
“I don’t dance like I used to, Rose said. “I really miss it, but I can still listen to and enjoy the music.”
Each year for Saint Patrick’s Day, the Ceili Club marches in the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“The only time I was in the parade was with the Ceili Club,” Rose said. “It was great fun.”
Moving to Concordia nearly three years ago to downsize from where she was formerly living, Rose still participates in community activities.
“I’m absolutely happy here,” Rose said. “It was a good decision, we have nice people here – you get to meet a lot of different kind of people and it’s interesting.”
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