Carl G. Swensson, 84, optician, avid tennis player in retirement

July 12, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Carl Gustav Swensson was an optician whose philosophy to do everything "the very best you can" led him to numerous interests and a tennis career that began when he retired. He died Monday of heart failure at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Mr. Swensson, 84, of Timonium owned and operated the Contact Lens and Artificial Eye Service downtown on East Chase Street from 1965 until he retired in 1980. He had previously worked as an optician in Montgomery, Ala., for 20 years.

In his retirement, tennis was his passion. He had played sporadically as a child, but took lessons in 1965 and played in countless tournaments in later years -- mostly after he was 66.

"When he retired, then he played a lot of tennis. A lot of tennis," said his daughter, Anna Parr of Timonium. "He said tennis is like life. It wasn't just the competition, but how you approached life."

Lean, agile and athletic, Mr. Swensson was well known in local tennis circles and competed in Super Senior Tennis tournaments nationally. He was ranked by the U.S. Tennis Association and won a bronze medal in the 1989 U.S. National Senior Olympics in St. Louis.

He trained and drilled daily at Perring Racquet Club or Homeland Racquet Club, where he perfected a killer drop shot, which he thought would help his game as he got older. He even bought a ball machine so he could hit shots at home.

"It gets in your blood, and you can't leave it alone," he said in a 1978 interview with The Sun. "It's also very stimulating. It's chance to do your best against the best. It's a spur to make you want to continue to learn and improve your game."

He was so devoted to the game, he'd often go to the Perring Racquet Club in the mornings to mend the nets.

"He knew that he'd get free court time that way," said another daughter, Linda Bluth of Baltimore. "He just liked being there."

A native of Aurora, Ill., Mr. Swensson worked as an apprentice at the Benson Optical Co. in Duluth, Minn., from 1931 to 1942. He served in the Army Medical Corps from 1944 to 1945 during World War II and was stationed in France, Germany and Belgium, where he saw action in the Battle of the Bulge.

Upon his discharge, he owned an optical service in Montgomery, Ala., during the turbulent civil rights years. Relatives said Mr. Swensson's business was one of the few that had an integrated waiting room. He moved to Baltimore in 1965.

He and his wife traveled to his tennis matches throughout the country. They also attended the U.S. Open, French Open and Wimbledon tournaments.

Mr. Swensson was an accomplished flutist who played in a small chamber group and enjoyed ballroom dancing.

A memorial concert is planned for the fall.

In addition to his daughters, Mr. Swensson is survived by his wife, the former Edna Johnson, whom he married in 1940; a son, Carl W. Swensson of Baltimore; another daughter, Naomi Swensson of Frederick; and three grandchildren.

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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