Patricia N. Swanson
November 12, 1923 – January 19, 2020
Passed away peacefully on January 19. 2020 at the age of 96.
She was born in Omaha, Nebraska, November 12, 1923 to Milton and Margaret Muirhead. Both of her parents were of Scottish ancestors, and she was always proud of her heritage. She grew up in the Florence neighborhood of North Omaha during the Great Depression. She felt that the sacrifices that people in that era made and how neighbors cared for neighbors helped to mold her character. She graduated from Omaha North High School and then attended what was then the University of Omaha majoring in education. Her school days instilled in her the love of poetry, but she developed the amazing ability to recite long phrases of obscure poems from memory that she had learned decades before.
She taught kindergarten at Brownell Hall which at the time was an all girls boarding school. She grew up Presbyterian and began attending Dundee Presbyterian Church across the street from the school. She was immediately drafted into teaching Sunday School which she continued for over 60 years. She remained a member of the church for 75 years serving as an Elder, an active participant in Presbyterian Women and the Mariners group. The most important part of her faith journey was a weekly Bible class taught by her dear friend Pat Burton. Her prayer life and scriptural readings enriched her spirituality.
While in college, she met and fell in love with a tall, blonde, athletic guy of Swedish ancestry named Don Swanson. They were married on April 14, 1945 at Dundee Presbyterian and moved into a small brick home on the corner of 51st and Erskine. Along with the house, she married a guy with two active black labs. Their first three children were born within four years. She was able to stay home and care for them. She was engaged in her children’s activities and became the real disciplinarian in the home (probably a result of the example set by her Scottish father’s no-nonsense approach to child rearing). The 1950’s and 60’s were an idyllic time. She easily made friends which endured a lifetime. These included neighbors, church, and college friends plus others she encountered in PEO.
By 1960, they needed a larger house. Don designed a four-bedroom Williamsburg colonial house which they built on more than an acre of land on North 52nd St. A year later, a tag-along daughter Polly was born. The house and land lent itself to an urban farmer. Don planted large fruit tree orchards, had massive gardens of tomatoes and other vegetables, and of course a beautiful rose bed and other flowers. Pat took on the bounty of those gardens by canning and freezing produce. To complete the bucolic feel, they acquired two ponies (remember this was within the city limits), built a barn, had flocks of chickens, a goat, along with numerous dogs and cats. This large house was designed for entertaining with a large dining room. They frequently had friends over for dinner. The weekly family tradition was a huge meal following Sunday church services. The table not only seated the children, but grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and neighbors. Later the table expanded to include children’s spouses and grandchildren celebrating birthdays and holidays. Over 20 could sit at the table. The paramount celebration was the Swedish Christmas Eve dinner begun by Grandmother Anne Swanson though Pat continued the tradition, though she refused to serve lutefisk.
She and Don also enjoyed the performing arts that Omaha offered. They were annual subscribers to the Omaha Playhouse and frequently attended the outdoor Pop Concert series at Peony Park. The family did several vacations out West. She and Don toured Scandinavia, Alaska, and later a cruise on the St. Lawrence Seaway. She joined two church group tours to Scotland to explore the Presbyterian Heritage of the Covenanters. To escape the pressures of the business world, Don took the family on annual trips to Potato Lake, just north of Park Rapids, Minnesota. They fell in love with the lake, so when land became available, Don built a family vacation home. Here, he enjoyed fishing, while Pat played with children and grandchildren, entertained friends, or just relaxed, napped, and read. This was clearly their sanctuary.
Back in Omaha, Pat found time to be engaged in volunteer activities. She was a founding member of PEO Chapter FT. She joined the Junior League volunteering at the Jumble Shop and the Omaha Hearing School. She was recognized for her work as a 35+ year volunteer at the University of Nebraska Medical Center working in the surgery waiting room. Here, she reassured nervous families while they waited for loved ones. She frequently transported children and their families from the airport when they arrived in town for transplant surgery.
Her grandchildren teased her by calling her “Patty” which she felt was inappropriate. Instead she adopted the moniker, “Grandpatty”. Everyone called her that, even friends. Therefore, our parents were Granddaddy and Grandpatty. Her children claimed that her favorite activity was talking on the phone for hours. She had such a network of friends, that staying in touch and supporting each other through a caring voice and prayer circles became an important part of her day. Her mind and memory remained amazing to the end. We were incredulous when she continued to write research papers for a women’s study group until two years ago when she could no longer read. The last topic she researched was the development of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Maybe part of that stimulation was her daily devotion to Alex Trebek’s Jeopardy. She tried to keep up with the Cornhusker football and women’s volleyball.
Though she wasn’t happy with the affirmaties of aging and was particularly upset about her loss of vision secondary to macular degeneration, she maintained a humble spirit to the end. Even though she had difficulty walking, she would dress each day in her trade-mark wool plaid skirt, starched white blouse, and sweater. Friends at the Arboretum, where she had resided the last five years, said, maybe enviously, that she was the only lady that never wore pants.
Pat was preceded in death by her husband Donald; her parents; and her two sisters, Marjory and Beverly. She is survived by her children: John Swanson (Deanna) of Sturgeon Bay, WI, Scott Swanson (Judy) of Omaha, Betsy Moran (Jeff) of Omaha and Polly Reischlein (Greg) of Temecula, CA; 14 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren, all of whom she adored.
MEMORIAL SERVICE: Friday, January 31, 2020, 2 pm at Dundee Presbyterian Church (5312 Underwood Ave.) Private Interment. In lieu of flowers, Patricia requested that memorials be made to Dundee Presbyterian Church, Omaha Open Door Mission or the Salvation Army.
We rejoice for having had Grandpatty in our lives. We will always remember her as a role model, her deep Christian spirituality, and her unconditional love.
Psalm 100; vs 5. For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting
And his truth endures to all generations.