Rose Mattus, 90; started Haagen-Dazs with husband

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Rose Mattus, who launched Haagen-Dazs ice cream with her husband, peddling the super-premium treat in grocery stores, died Tuesday in Westwood, N.J. She was 90.

Gutterman-Musicant Funeral Directors in Hackensack, N.J., confirmed the death but did not report the cause.

Mattus, who lived in Cresskill, N.J., had been controller of Haagen-Dazs Inc. Her husband, Reuben Mattus, died in 1994.

The company was formed about 1960, having morphed from her husband’s family’s decades-old business in New York City.


Reuben Mattus concocted the nonsensical name Haagen-Dazs, which means nothing in any language, for the brand that became famous for its super-rich recipes.

During the company’s early years, Rose Mattus would offer samples in grocery stores.

“Rose and Reuben were pioneers and legends in the ice cream field,” said Jerry Greenfield, who co-founded Ben & Jerry’s gourmet ice cream company.

Pillsbury Co. acquired Haagen-Dazs in 1983; a profile of Reuben Mattus a few years later said he received about $70 million in the deal. Haagen-Dazs is now owned by Nestle SA.

Born Nov. 23, 1916, Rose Vesel Mattus left her native Poland when her Jewish family immigrated to Brooklyn in 1921. She and Reuben were married in 1936. They were committed to Zionist causes throughout their lives, traveling to Israel many times and building a school in a Tel Aviv suburb.

Among Mattus’ survivors are daughters Doris Mattus Hurley and Natalie Salmore, five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Even though she had diabetes, Rose Mattus was a fan of her product, particularly vanilla, Hurley said.

“If it was anywhere in sight, she would sneak it,” Hurley told the Record of Bergen County. “My dad was always yelling, ‘Rose, get out of the ice cream!’ But she lived to be 90, so I guess it didn’t do her too much harm.”