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Rosemary Kowalski Papers Open for Research

August 14, 2017

Special Collections is pleased to announce that the Rosemary Kowalski Papers have been processed and are now open for research. Additionally, select photos from the collection are available to view online.

Young Rosemary practicing her dance skills

Rosemary Hughes Kowalski was born in San Antonio, Texas on September 27, 1924; she is the only child of Virginia Mergele Hughes and William Upton Hughes. As a child she took dance lessons and attended Blessed Sacrament Academy. She then attended Incarnate Word High School and graduated in 1941. In 1945 she married Henry “Hank” Kowalski. They have two children: Mary Kowalski Carrington and Greg Kowalski.

Rosemary and Henry opened Uncle Ben’s Barbecue Restaurant at 2414 N. Zarzamora Street together in 1946. Rosemary had her first off-site catering event at St. Peter’s Prince of the Apostles Church in 1949, and in 1961 the name officially changed to Catering by Rosemary. In 1968 the business was named the official caterer for HemisFair ’68, the World’s Fair held in San Antonio. In 1972 the business won an exclusive catering contract for the San Antonio Convention Center, a contract that is still maintained today.

Rosemary stands next to an impressive early table display, 1960

Rosemary hard at work in the kitchen, 1968

By the early 1980’s the company had long outgrown the kitchen of Uncle Ben’s Barbecue. As the business continued to grow, it moved to a larger space near St. Paul’s Square, where the business is headquartered today. In 1989, The RK Group was launched, and Rosemary’s son Greg was named President and CEO. Greg further diversified the company to include floral design, a specialized destination management company, a full-service nationwide meeting planning group, emergency management support, and a PR and marketing design component.

Ready for an elegant evening on Alamo Plaza

Rosemary celebrates the opening of Rosemary’s Delivery Service by making the first delivery via motorcycle, 2002

Throughout its history, the company has served Pope John Paul II, their Royal Highnesses Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, U.S. Ambassador to England Henry Catto, numerous U.S. Presidents, and countless celebrities. Rosemary attributes her success to her long-established reputation for caring about fine details. Despite her success, she is known for her humility, dedication to service, positive outlook, and her courtesy and caring for others. Amongst her favorite sayings are “Say please and thank-you, always,” and “Attitude is everything.”

The RK Group really does it all! Pictured above is the massive catering setup for Valero Corporation’s 25th anniversary celebration held at the Alamodome in 2005.

Rosemary retired from The RK Group in 1997, though she remains Chairman and CEO Emeritus. She is actively involved in the community and is well known for her philanthropic efforts in San Antonio’s cultural, arts, human service, religious, and educational organizations. Her numerous awards and honors include San Antonio Entrepeneur of the Year (1988), Grande Dame of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (2003),  induction into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame (1998) and the Texas Business Hall of Fame (2004).

Rosemary poses for a photo with her children and their spouses at her 70th birthday party, 1994. L-R: Greg and Bekki Kowalski, Rosemary Kowalski, Mary Kowalski Carrington, John Carrington

The Rosemary Kowalski Papers contain paper files, photograph prints, newspaper clippings, appointment calendars, two of Rosemary’s school yearbooks, a childhood scrapbook, VHS and Betacam tapes, CDs, DVDs, and born-digital records. The collection also contains electronic records that were once traditional paper files and photos, but were scanned by RK Group staff and donated to UTSA Special Collections as electronic records.

The Rosemary Kowalski Papers are housed at UTSA’s Main Campus and can be viewed by appointment in the John Peace Library Special Collections Reading Room. The complete collection guide is available online. Additionally, select photos are available to view online.

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