Camille Rosengren, a literary woman of taste, wit, intellect and culture, dies at 94

In memory of:

Camille Duane Rosengren

Born: Sep 28, 1926, San Antonio, TX
Died: Sep 11, 2021, San Antonio, TX
Age: 94

Camille Duane Rosengren died peacefully in her River Road neighborhood home on Saturday, September 11, 2021, approximately two weeks shy of her 95th birthday. At her side was her daughter, Emily Katherine Ferry.

Camille was born Emily Camille Sweeney in San Antonio, Texas, on September 28, 1926, daughter of Emmett Thomas Sweeney and Camille Georgette Lodovic.

Cam, as she was known by virtually all, resided for most of her childhood in both The Menger and the St. Anthony hotels in downtown San Antonio. Her stories of meeting celebrities in the lobby and rummaging around the attic of the Menger were fascinating (although she vowed to having never seen a ghost there). She attended the Bonn-Avon School in King William and received her Master’s Degree from Our Lady of the Lake and her PhD from the University of the Incarnate Word.

In 1951 she married Frank Duane Rosengren, son of Florence and Frank Rosengren, proprietors of the celebrated San Antonio bookstore, Rosengren's. With Frank, an author, poet and playwright, Cam moved to New York City and became a researcher at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their daughter Emily was born and the family stayed in New York for well over a decade until returning to San Antonio. Cam became a librarian at San Antonio College before the opening of Hemisfair '68 and then went to work as a researcher for the newly established Institute of Texan Cultures. 

In 1979, Cam took over the managing of Rosengren’s Bookstore from her mother-in-law and, through her guidance, the store flourished as the preeminent independent book seller in South Texas. Famous authors, celebrities, politicians, artists and local citizenry all flocked to Rosengren's, behind the Alamo and then on the Riverwalk, for the highest quality books and intellectual inspiration. The store, which closed in 1987, was a cultural landmark with a national reputation. Author and Harper's magazine editor Willie Morris called Rosengren’s  "one of the finest and most admirable bookstores in America."

Cam was a former vice president of the San Antonio Conservation Society and a member of Women For Peace in the Southwest. She was also one of the original founders of the River Road Neighborhood Association, as well as a long-time member of the Zonta Club of San Antonio, a professional women’s service organization.

Cam was an extremely bright, worldly and well-versed individual. She was direct, curious and not unfamiliar with an occasional use of colorful language.  She suffered fools with all the patience of a guillotine operator. And yet, if you were up to speed with her quick, razor-sharp mind, the world instantly became a much livelier, more engaging place.

She was nearly always the best-read person at any gathering. The latest movies, books, classical music, political events in Myanmar, favorite restaurants in New York - she either knew or could rustle up an answer even without an iPhone nearby. Conversations around her kitchen table were legendary.  If San Antonio ever had a nascent literary salon it burgeoned in the historic 1780 “Zambrano Homestead” residence of the Rosengren family. 

A distinctive woman of taste, wit, intellect and culture, the city of San Antonio, and indeed all  that knew and loved her, were honored by her very presence and strength of character. 

She is preceded in death by her husband, Frank, in 2010 and survived by her daughter, Emily Ferry of Los Angeles, and her godchildren, Ben Hernandez and Dolores Hernandez Kuttruff. 

Heartfelt gratitude goes to the many amazing caregivers, Dr. Jay Hoelscher, and the hospice care program at CompleteCare.
In lieu of flowers, a donation to the Wildlife Conservation Society would be greatly appreciated.

Author: William Jack Sibley