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Life Story / Obituary
Spunky, smart, and spirited, Camille Pharo-Swan was a courageous spitfire whose passionate and tenacious ways inspired all who knew her. Born in a time of plenty and having lived her youth in a decade of want, Camille’s fiery spirit ignited a life filled with trailblazing adventures, luminous laughter, and great love. Camille centered her hopes and dreams around her family and with an undaunting spirit made her dreams reality.
The early 1920’s were marked by tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts. The economy boomed, wages rose for most Americans and prices fell, resulting in a higher standard of living for most. With the inventions of the washing machine, vacuum cleaner, self-winding watch, bulldozer, instant camera, drive-in restaurants, Band-Aids, and the convertible the post-war, era marked significant advancement and morale flourished throughout the land. While the US census proved for the first time in history that more Americans lived in urban areas than rural ones, the wave of sweeping social and economic growth grew exponentially with the ratification of the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote. More than a million women worked in white collar jobs while the automobile industry nearly doubled. Without a doubt, it is fitting Camille’s radiant life began in the midst of such great fervor. Imagine the excitement when her parents, Loius Nassif and Helen Pharo welcomed Camille, their seventh and youngest child, into their hearts and home on March 7th, 1924.
Camille’s childhood days were mostly spent in the good company of her siblings, Vivian, Evelyn, Agravene, Alvina, Lucille, and Joseph. Camille's father worked as a dry goods merchant; her mother made her career as a homemaker. Her father immigrated from Lebanon, while her mother, who was also 100% Lebanese, was born in Ohio. Like many children of immigrants and first born Americans, Camille’s values were firmly built on a strong sense of hard work, gratitude, and patriotism. These values were coupled with the family’s solid faith as evidenced in their membership at St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church, in Birmingham, Alabama. Growing up in the south Camille grew to love roller skating, the movies, and feasting on Middle Eastern food during holidays. Though Camille’s innate fortitude was evident right from the start, the way she endured three broken arms while roller skating became a family story of legend. Living her entire youth in Alabama, Camille acquired both a lifelong southern charm and an accent she proudly carried throughout her entire life; she was truly one of the south’s all-time grandest belles. For a short period of time, Camille thoroughly enjoyed living in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her eldest sister, Vivian.
While working at the Army Air Base in Birmingham, Camille met Noble Raymond Swan who was stationed there after returning from the Aleutian Islands. After marrying, Camille and Noble moved to Lansing, Michigan where they parented their four children, Mindy, Steven, Susan and Carol before divorcing after 25 years of marriage.
Camille loved cooking, especially her favorite Lebanese foods, despite her inconsistent success at it. She also felt passionate about her plants and gardening, crocheting, reading mystery books, and working crossword puzzles. Vacations were spent either camping or cottaging in Northern Michigan or returning to Alabama to visit family. Camille was known as a woman of her word and consistently spoke her mind trusting that others could be with the truth as she shared it. She perfected the art of the backhanded compliment and frequently inspired laughter without even trying. Her natural love of a challenge, gregarious personality and savvy sales skills assured Camille’s success as real estate broker. As the third female realtor in the Lansing area, she was a trailblazer for all the women who followed her path. A consummate professional, Camille was consistently a top salesperson and won numerous sales awards over the course of her 35-year career.
Eventually, Camille moved to Grand Rapids where she continued her real estate career while also proudly working the polls during elections. She especially enjoyed her St Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church community and treasured the many friendships she shared with members of the fellowship.
Those who knew her would unhesitatingly agree that Camille’s life centered on her family. She was a proud and devoted mother to her son and daughters whom she deeply loved and unfailingly supported. Her fun-loving nature made her a wonderful grandmother to 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Though the world is surely duller without Camille’s bright light, her vibrant legacy will continue to brilliantly shine in the hearts and lives of those she leaves behind.
Loving mother, grandmother, and friend, Camille Pharo-Swan passed away January 24, 2017, at Trillium Woods Hospice. She will be deeply missed by her children, Melinda Swan-Allen of Denver, CO, Steven (Sherry) Swan of Coleman, MI, Susan (John) Decker of Pickerington, OH, and Carol (Daniel) Fox of Grand Rapids, MI; grandchildren, Lori (Steven Van Note) Allen, Andy Swan, Melissa (Casey) Allen, Rob Decker, Mike (Kristen) Decker, Ashley (Louis) Olian, J.D. (Amy) Fox, Kristin Fox-Olk, and Joe (Leah) Fox; and 17 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her brother, five sisters, and granddaughter, Christina Swan. A funeral service will be held on Monday, January 30th at 11 AM at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, 2250 East Paris SE. Friends may visit with the family from 10-11 at the church. Interment will be in Rosedale Memorial Park. Memorials may be made to the charity of your choice. Please visit Camille's personal web page to learn more about her life story, leave a memory or condolence at www.lifestorynet.com.