Mary Schweitzer, 86, died on April 20, 2023, in Rock Hill, SC, her home for the last 45 years. She passed peacefully, surrounded by family and friends.
Mary was born in Dayton, Ohio, on September 15, 1936 to Leonard Joseph Schweitzer and Dorothy Drexler Schweitzer. She graduated from Julienne High School in 1954, and joined the Roman Catholic religious order of the Glenmary Sisters, where she worked for over a decade serving poor communities in rural Ohio, Virginia, and Georgia. She left Glenmary and attended college, graduating from Georgia Southern College with a degree in sociology and anthropology in 1967. Moving to New York City, Mary completed a PhD in cultural anthropology at the New School for Social Research. She got married, had a son (Hans), and was hired as Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.
Mary moved to Rock Hill in 1978 to join the faculty at Winthrop College (later Winthrop University). She taught anthropology at Winthrop for 23 years, earning rave reviews from her students as a smart, kind-hearted, and thoughtful instructor who was nevertheless a tough grader. She had many research interests, but devoted much of her time to studying communities in remote fishing villages along the northern coast of Peru. While at Winthrop, Mary received Fulbright fellowships to study and teach internationally in Colombia, India, and Albania. She also participated in an exchange program, teaching for a year at the Shanghai International Studies University in China.
In 2001, Mary retired from full-time teaching at Winthrop and was named professor emerita. She continued teaching occasionally at Winthrop, as well as full-time abroad in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, and Turkmenistan. In 2013, she served in the US Peace Corps in the Philippines. Through her teaching over the last two decades, Mary inspired a generation of young students from Central Asia to continue their studies in college and graduate school, many of them in anthropology or another social science.
In addition to traveling professionally, Mary loved to travel for pleasure and filled up seven passports. At home in Rock Hill, she could be found volunteering at the NICU at Piedmont Medical Center or at the Children's Attention Home. A woman of devout faith, Mary attended services regularly at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the Oratory. She enjoyed socializing with her many friends, playing bridge, observing nature, reading books and magazines, cooking and eating great food, and engaging in long video chats with her beloved grandchildren, Anders and Piper. In her last few years, Mary even took up painting, and created some beautiful watercolors.
Mary was quick with a smile or a joke, and eager to lend a hand to anyone in need. Her rum cake and enchilada pie recipes are legendary. She will be missed from here to Central Asia and many points in-between.
Mary is survived by her older brother, Ted Schweitzer, and his wife, Lynn; and by her son, Hans de Grys, his wife, Kristi, and their two children. She was preceded in death by her parents and her younger sister, Ann Schweitzer.
A memorial service will be held at Park Pointe Village on Monday, May 1, at 11am. A funeral mass will also be celebrated at a later date at the Rock Hill Oratory church. All are welcomed at both services.
In lieu of flowers, please do something kind for a loved one or a total stranger, as Mary would have done.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mary Schweitzer, please visit our floral store.