Carolyn Schwenkmeyer
MARIEMONT - Portraits of this village's founder, Mary Emery, and its first mayor, E. Boyd Jordan, hang in the room where Village Council meets. Between the paintings by Carolyn Schwenkmeyer hangs the village flag, which the artist designed.

Mrs. Schwenkmeyer, who also was one of the founding trustees of the Mariemont Preservation Foundation, died Feb. 8 at an Anderson Township nursing home. The former longtime Mariemont resident was 100.

Emery turned a spade to break ground for Mariemont in 1923, but her portrait in the Village Hall at 6907 Wooster Pike wasn't dated by the artist. Mrs. Schwenkmeyer often created portraits based on photographs, and that's likely how she made the one of Emery, who died in 1927.

The Mariemont flag, which depicts the Emery Memorial Carillon bell tower in Dogwood Park, was unveiled at the Labor Day Festival Sept. 3, 1979, after Mrs. Schwenkmeyer won a design contest.

Mrs. Schwenkmeyer was pleased that commissioned portraits she had made of Emery and four other figures important to the village's history hung in Village Hall, but she also took pleasure in knowing that her depictions of children were treasured by hundreds of families in Mariemont, Indian Hill and other neighborhoods.

"When I was home from college, I would go running (in Mariemont)," said her son Barry Schwenkmeyer of Redwood City, Calif. Through windows, "I could see the portraits she had done hanging in all the homes. She did over a thousand portraits."

Mrs. Schwenkmeyer worked on commission into her 90s, mostly in pastels, though she painted some portraits in oils or acrylics.

Until midlife, she created art as a hobby. Word of her talent spread after a pastel portrait she had done of a neighbor's daughter was hung in the window of the Mariemont public library during an art show in the 1950s.

Her clients usually were parents who wanted to memorialize their children. She ended up making portraits of the children and grandchildren of some of her earliest subjects.

Mrs. Schwenkmeyer's first subject for pay was a neighborhood boy who didn't appreciate being told to sit still.

"I sat that little boy across from me at the kitchen table," Mrs. Schwenkmeyer told The Enquirer in 1998, when she reflected at age 87 on the first portraits she had made about 40 years earlier. "He glared at me, and I glared at him."

Because youngsters tended to squirm while sitting for her, Mrs. Schwenkmeyer began using a Polaroid camera to capture their images. She would decide which pose to draw in pastels based on parental reaction to the photos.

It's unclear how much she charged, but it probably wasn't enough considering how much time she spent on each portrait, her son said. She would work late into the night in her studio in the family home on Emery Lane.

Mrs. Schwenkmeyer lived in Mariemont for 47 years. She married Carl Schwenkmeyer in 1936. In 1948 his sales manager job with Procter & Gamble brought them to the village.

He preceded her in death in 1974.

In 1980, Mrs. Schwenkmeyer helped found the Mariemont Preservation Foundation. She served more than six years on the board of trustees of the organization, which strives to maintain the historic integrity of the village, beautify it, and preserve and improve its parks, playgrounds and other public areas.

She was born Carolyn Jean Whitcomb in Weatherford, Okla., on Aug. 10, 1910. Her mother, Melissa Hull Whitcomb, was an art teacher. Her father, Lemley Whitcomb, taught high school chemistry and industrial arts.

She grew up in Wisconsin, but her family moved to Delaware, Ohio, when she was a teenager. She attended Ohio Wesleyan University for a year before the family moved to Columbus. She graduated from Ohio State University in 1931 with bachelor's degrees in English and education.

That year, she moved to Warren, where she taught English and art at a public high school for five years.

In addition to her son, survivors include another son, Peter Schwenkmeyer of Pierce Township; a sister, Florence Ebersold of Chicago; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation will begin 10 a.m. March 12 at T.P. White Funeral Home, 2050 Beechmont Ave., Mount Washington, followed at 11 a.m. by a memorial service.

Memorials: Alzheimer's Association, 644 Linn St., Suite 1026, Cincinnati, OH 45203.

Written by Barrett J. Brunsman | [email protected]
Published by The Cincinnati Enquirer from Feb. 16 to Feb. 17, 2011.
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5 Entries
Carolyn will be greatly missed her at The Anderson.
Jona Fuellhart
February 21, 2011
The portraits she painted of my three children in the late 1970's are the first thing I grab in case of a tornado. She was a gracious and lovely lady.
Mary Jo Byrnes
February 21, 2011
What a very nice person she was. I have been delivering mail out at The Seasons for 17 years and got to know her. Always a smile. May God enjoy her company.
Denise Knue
February 17, 2011
Carolyn Schwenkmeyer painted an oil portrait of our beloved cat Skipper in the early 1960's for my parents when they lived in Cincinnati. My mother is now in a memory unit in Indianapolis and the painting hangs proudly for her to see. It is a treasured memory that we all cherish.
Our family sends it's condolences to your family on Mrs. Schwenkmeyer's passing
William Camm
February 17, 2011
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
February 17, 2011
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