Rose Durham’s love of helping others started early. When her family emigrated from Norway, she was a young girl, but spoke English well and soon became the spokesperson for her family.

“I remember my mother crying and reading the family Bible,” she says. “Looking back, I think what incredible sense of adventure, how really amazing my mother was to have left everything in Norway after the war and to start over in a country where she didn’t even know the language. It was very brave.”

The early start helping out her family led Durham into a marketing career that culminated in more than 20 years at local accounting firm Stockman Kast Ryan + Co.

“I started in November 1997,” she said. “They had no marketing department here, and Marvin Strait took me to lunch and pretty much said I needed to work here and I needed to take over marketing. He said the job was perfect for me; he was right. I believe you have to go where you’re led — and this was just meant to be.”

From marketing, Durham took on the role as new business development director — a job that builds on her love of people and relationships.

“Really, it’s all about relationships,” she said. “It’s not about business. And that’s what I love about Stockman Kast Ryan — the years have gone so quickly because of the culture and the people I work with. There’s an openness, an honesty, a kind of caring. We’re not just an accounting firm. I’m nearing 70, and I keep not retiring because I love working here.”

The work gives meaning to Durham’s life, she says, and she finds inspiration from her colleagues — but also from her friends, family and faith.

“It’s not the job; it’s the people,” she said. “I understand letting people work from their strengths, and that’s really what I do. You get to know the clients, the people and then you get to know their strengths. That’s the best way to be successful.”

And Durham’s enthusiasm for her job is echoed with her co-workers and bosses, who nominated her for the Woman of Influence award.

“Rose has an incredible ability to see people clearly and kindly,” said Trinity Bradley-Anderson, managing partner at the accounting firm. “One of Rose’s roles at SKR + Co. is to help groom our CPAs in client service and in attracting new business. She is wonderful at being that mentor/teacher who can clearly see an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and pushes that person to be their best self.”

Durham finds the best in people she meets and mentors, said Bradley-Anderson.

“She takes people as they are, finds the best in them and inspires them to live up to the promise that she sees,” she continued. “She is part career-mom, part kick-ass coach and entirely a force of nature. As a firm, we would not have been as successful in grooming our new leaders (myself included) without Rose’s wisdom and steady guidance.”

Durham said much of her success is due to mentoring from others.

“I grew up at a time when there were not a lot of women working outside the home,” she said. “So there were not a lot of female role models. I had a couple of great bosses early on, people who really cared about me and helped me be the best. My goal now is to pay it forward and give people assistance. When it comes to women in the workforce, we have some unique challenges. I’ve been so fortunate in having other people’s assistance and advice throughout my career.”

Giving others credit is just part of Durham’s makeup and her legacy, said Bradley-Anderson.

“Rose will tell you that she has been the recipient of many kindnesses and help through her career, and that she is simply paying it forward,” she said. “Perhaps that is her legacy — that those she has inspired and influenced will continue to pay forward what she has so generously given to us.”

— Amy G. Sweet