Rosemary Schwetman Alexander
December 19, 1947 – December 22, 2020
Rosemary Schwetman Alexander died on December 22, 2020 peacefully in palliative care surrounded by loved ones. The cause was cancer.
Rosemary was born in Waco, Texas December 19, 1947 to Herbert Schwetman and Mary Jean Knight Schwetman. She graduated from Richfield High School in Waco in 1966 and from Baylor University in 1970. She received a PhD in English from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977.
In 1973 she married Bill Alexander in a ceremony in her parents’ back yard, and they enjoyed a loving, mutually supportive relationship for the 47 years until her passing.
She taught English at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts and at the University of New Mexico at Los Alamos, and was employed as a technical writer at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
While living in New Mexico the couple had two sons, Will and Randall. When Will was born with cerebral palsy, she immediately gave up her teaching career and began to educate herself on the problems faced by families with children with disabilities and resources available to these families.
When the couple returned to Austin in 1984 Rosemary joined the ARC of the Capitol area and created a program, Pilot Parent, which won a national award as the best program of its kind helping families with children with special needs. She next worked in the Austin Independent School District as an interface between these families and the district. She believed strongly in the power of parents to help other parents.
Along with two friends, in 2002 she helped start a statewide non-profit, Texas Parent to Parent (TxP2P). TxP2P now serves over 9,000 families and 1,500 professionals across Texas by providing information, resources, support and education.
Rosemary was a trailblazer in the difficult transition period from childhood to adulthood and building a good adult life for loved ones with disabilities. She started TxP2P’s Pathways to Adulthood program to help families with this transition. She developed talks and all-day workshops on the subject, which she delivered all over the state. Rosemary will be remembered and missed by the thousands of parents and professionals in Texas whom she taught, worked with and mentored over the years.
Both before and after marriage Rosemary traveled widely, visiting a few countries in Asia, many in Europe, and also Israel and Australia.
Rosemary loved the outdoors. Every morning rain or shine she began the day with a walk around the neighborhood with friends. She eagerly undertook more challenging hikes on the trails around Austin, along the Llano river, and in Big Bend National Park. She enjoyed learning the names of every flower and tree she encountered. She could be sneakily mischievous, and was often impulsive. She would jump into a river or backyard pool, sometimes forgetting to take her cellphone out of her pocket beforehand. She was positive and cheerful; somehow a room became a little brighter when she entered it.
In all of her roles, as a wife, mother, companion, teacher, or creator, her actions were characterized by kindness, consideration, and a desire to help. We are told “As you sow, so shall you reap”. Rosemary sowed help and kindness, and she was rewarded with love and admiration from all who knew her.
Rosemary is survived by her husband, William Preston Alexander III, her son William Preston Alexander IV, her son Randall Knight Alexander and his husband Guillermo Garza de Alexander, her brother Herbert Schwetman Jr. and his wife Anne Greenway, her brother John Schwetman and his wife Jenny Schwetman, and several nieces and nephews.
The immediate family will hold a private remembrance, and will host an open and joyous celebration of Rosemary’s life next year as soon as travel and large crowds can be done safely.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Texas Parent to Parent at www.txp2p.org
- Texas Parent to Parent
Rosemary Schwetman Alexander
January 21, 2021
I worked with Rosemary at AISD. I learned so much from her both professionally as well as personally as a trusted friend through her gentle, loving way of teaching. May you rest now, friend. Sending warm thoughts to all you loved and loved you.
January 13, 2021
I knew Rosemary as a parent of a child with special needs, as a fellow professional and as a Barton Springs admirer and swimmer.
As a parent she represented honesty, kindness and integrity as she sought the best for her child and guidance for herself and her family.
As a professional, she was my truest, kindest source of support for other families who had additional needs for their child with challenges.
As a swimmer, she like so many of us knew to fill the well as we were buffeted through life.
Kindness...that is how I will always think of Rosemary.
Marsha B. Earley
January 8, 2021
Beginning in 1988, Rosemary and I and a few other young mothers began an experiment in parenting a child with a disability into and through the AISD special ed system, such as it existed then, called Parent2Parent. AISD was especially ill equipt to deal with my Amy, a 4 year old beautiful little super-hyperactive, ADHD, with unknown to me at the time Lennox-Gastaut Epileptic Syndrome thus unable to retain a thought longer than 1 minute, blond, blue-eyed ballerina. She was rejected from 2 kindergartens until we found Joslin Elementary, where teacher Karen and teacher aide JOY especially took Amy into their arms and literally guided her by the shoulders for 2 years, with her day starting with Joy taking her for a fast 2 mile jog round the school track to burn off some of her excess energy before expecting her to sit within the class structure. It was this kind of accommodation that was sought out and implemented that made Parent2Parent a success. The new and radical support of having a veteran parent knowledgeable about AISD procedures and parental rights helping to guide a young parent, possibly frightened and anxious, through the very rigorous and possibly future defining decisions about their very young children's early educational experiences for the foreseeable future, from pre-kindergarten through 5th grade, was an awesome and life changing experience for me personally, but most certainly for Rosemary as she built her organization one brick at a time, one phone call, one parent-teacher meeting, one legislative meeting, one school board meeting, one PTA meeting at a time, until she had a brick and mortar colossus that became her legacy organization. We went to testify at Legislative Board meetings where we were both so nervous beforehand, but so proud afterward. It was with each of these small victories that she built her empire, with her child as primary inspiration but the desire to bring along children like my Amy equally a driving force.
January 7, 2021
Rosemary was a unique person- she always had time to listen and offer support and resources. Her compassion, generosity, and humility were gifts she shared with others. I am honored to have known her. Sincere condolences to her family and friends.
January 5, 2021
I first met Rosemary in 1999, when I volunteered to share my sweet, gorgeous Silky Terriers as Pet Pals for her wonderful Pilot Parents Program, effectively occupying the kids, while the parents were being piloted. The parents and the pilots, including Rosemary, enjoyed those little fur balls, too.
Though I had not yet realized it, I was on the cusp of a career transition, from computer scientist/engineer to assistive technology specialist and volunteer for the lesser enfranchised. She and Pilot Parenting assisted, by introducing me, not only to the kids and parents, but to Arc of the Capital Area, which serendipitously drew me into a symbiotic relationship with a young Arc client, Steven. He, coincidentally, was one of Will's classmates and, in essence, became my unofficial "adopted son". So I got to meet, and learn from and with, Will, as well. [Though I knew her primarily in one niche, other coincidences abounded, and I later discovered that her husband, Bill, and brother, Herb, had been my colleagues in my prior high-tech incarnation.]
Rosemary's experiences, knowledge, wisdom and insight were incredibly helpful in navigating the hornet's nest of services and support in the community of people with disabilities. She was SO nice, and always made herself available. We had so many fruitful discussions, along her path from Pilot Parents to Parent2Parent, which mutually enhanced our lives and those lives around us, especially in terms of independence and self-determination
Starting out by doing so much good for Will, she managed to do a lot of good for many people, including Steven, my many friends and AT students and me. I think she influenced me strongly to take a path similar to hers.
I had reflected on Rosemary a lot recently, as we lost Steven only a month before we lost her. I will forever miss her, but also have so much I learned from and about her to carry me forward and keep her memory alive.
January 4, 2021
I met Rosemary back in the 90s as a social worker involved with the Pilot Parents board and then went on to call her for many years when she was at AISD and TxP2P. Rosemary could always answer my questions. She was so kind, resourceful and knowledgeable. Rosemary greeted everyone with her beautiful wide smile and her warm nature. She was truly an angel on earth. Rest in peace.
Susan and David Dolling
January 4, 2021
Rosemary has been a friend to me and my daughter Anne ever since we knew her from Elementary School. Every once in a while we would have lunch and brainstorm about what I should do to prepare Anne for the next step in her life and her education. Anne is thirty-five now; she has DS. Rosemary was there when we had a problem at our ARDs, she was there whenever I needed someone to help guide me, my husband and I have attended some of the numerous programs and meetings she created for parents like us. We also shared our personal experiences as parents to children with disabilities. She lent me support, both emotional and informative, on countless occasions. We shall miss her dearly.
January 3, 2021
Rosemary was always so cheerful
January 1, 2021
I was so saddened to hear of Rosemary’s passing. Rosemary helped to transform the parent and family support process for parents of students with disabilities in Austin ISD. She was gifted at sharing her own experience, strength and hope as a parent to offer comfort, meaningful guidance and helpful resources to hundreds of families across her career.
I learned so much for Rosemary and I will always treasure the work that we did together.
Sending thoughts of peace and comfort to all the family.