- Matthew Odam American-Statesman Staff
An explorer and visionary with a passion for community and wellness, Casa de Luz co-founder Maryann Rose died early Monday in Austin, her former business partner Wayo Longoria said. She was 73.
A native of Dallas, Rose moved to Austin during its bohemian heyday. She met Longoria at the East West Center, a macrobiotic center, in 1984. When the center on South Fifth Street in South Austin burned down in 1989, the tight-knit community fostered by the center “was scrambling to figure out where to eat,” Longoria said.
Rose opened the doors to her Clarksville house and began serving dinners for dozens of people from her “postal-stamp-sized kitchen.”
Longoria and Rose expected the East West Center to reopen, but when it didn’t, the two decided to start Casa de Luz. Rose found the former Texas Meat Purveyors Meatpacking plant at 1701 Toomey Road just south of Lady Bird Lake, and the partners opened the community center and restaurant on Rose’s 47th birthday, Jan. 27, 1991. Before they even began serving meals, with Rose helming the kitchen, they welcomed Joe and Claire Bruno’s Parkside Community School, with which Casa de Luz partnered for 24 years.
The old meatpacking plant was in horrible condition when the partners took over. The roof had caved in, and the plastic foam walls were better suited for an industrial refrigerator.
Longoria credits Rose’s industriousness and imagination in helping get Casa de Luz off the ground.
“She was an incredible and resourceful person,” Longoria said. “We weren’t only using second-hand materials; we were using third-hand materials.”
Rose and Longoria were pioneers in the Austin wellness scene, with many not fully understanding the macrobiotic lifestyle and diet they promoted through their nonprofit community center.
“Back when we started this, it was very esoteric. We were deemed to be crazies,” Longoria said. “Now it has really become mainstream. The word ‘vegan’ wasn’t even known here back then.”
Rose stayed at Casa de Luz for about seven years, pulled away by her sense of exploration and intellectual curiosity, but she stayed a central part of her community, hosting dinners and gatherings from her small compound of properties in Clarksville.
Rose bought a farm in Fredericksburg and just the day before her death had exchanged emails with Longoria about her plans to buy an organic farm in Paonia, Colo., he said.
“She was an inveterate explorer of finding better ways to live,” Longoria said.
Longoria didn’t know the cause of death, but said Rose died early Monday just hours after expressing discomfort.
“We often talked about the most elegant way to die, and that was you’re healthy until the day before you die,” Longoria said.
Rose is survived by her daughters, Casey and Cully Crumpacker, and Tessa Kate and Lilia Rose Justman.
“She planted some great seeds for the future of humanity,” Longoria said.