Life Story / Obituary
A remarkable man in every way, Spencer Swanson was such a blessing. He worked hard and gave everything his all, his family the passion behind his work. Although he treasured his loved ones, his heart beat to love and serve the Lord he held near and dear to his heart. Blessed to share much of his life with his true love, Spencer was filled with such joy to become a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather many times over. Although he experienced so many of the best things that life has to offer, what made them truly extraordinary was sharing them with the ones he loved. Dearly cherished, Spencer will be forever missed.
The 1920s were an exciting time to be an American. Innovation was taking us places we had never been, and our lives were being transformed for the better. Radios, washing machines, and motion pictures in both color and sound were among the noteworthy changes, and the lights of Broadway never shined brighter. It was during this exciting time that Oliver Leroy and Adelaide (Spencer) Swanson were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named Spencer Oliver on September 9, 1923, in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of three boys to be raised in the family home Chandlers Valley down the road as he was joined in the Swanson clan by his younger twin brothers, Oliver and Perry. Spencer’s father worked for the federal prison system and was a farmer while his mother was a homemaker. Like so many other families during the dark days of the Great Depression, the Swansons felt the strain. They moved to Alabama for a time as there was work there. An avid outdoorsman, Spencer went hunting and fishing whenever he could, both for the food and for the fun of it. He attended the local elementary and Sugar Grove High School. After high school he took voice lessons as he loved opera and wanted to be an opera singer.
When America joined in the fight during WWII, Spencer joined the Army to serve his country. His troop ship was bound for England and the men were scheduled for D-Day landing, however, an ear infection left Spencer unable to go along. As fate would have it, that ship was sunk by a torpedo. Another time his plane developed trouble and crash landed in the Swiss Alps. Those who survived were rescued by Swiss citizens with bottles of wine. Following the war, Spencer was offered a job with the State Department with the United States Embassy and took a job in Rome while still taking opera lessons.
It was while in Rome that Spencer met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Mary Jeanne Franklin, and she also worked for the State Department. They got to know one another and soon found themselves deeply in love. With a desire to establish a life together Spencer and Mary Jeanne were married on September 8, 1951, in Rome, Italy. The newlyweds made their home in Rome for several years. While there they welcomed the birth of their first son, John. They later returned to the United States where Spencer attended Syracuse University under the GI Bill, earning his degree in political science. While there, the couple welcomed three more sons including James, Jeremy, and Jeffrey into their hearts and home. In 1957, their family of six made their way back to the Midwest, settling in Battle Creek, Michigan. A bit later, their son, Joel, was born with special needs.
To provide for his family, Spencer worked in various positions within the federal government while Mary Jeanne devoted herself to the role of a mother of five busy boys. When he was working at the Pentagon for a year, he and his wife made the difficult decision to place Joel in a group home during that time. Spencer was involved in managing the Boy Scouts of America, and three of his boys were Scouts as well. The family spent a week each summer renting a cottage on Lake Webster in Webster, Indiana, where Mary Jeanne’s family held their annual reunion. They also took trips throughout Michigan and its Upper Peninsula. Spencer was a passionate believer in education and instilled the importance of education in all his family.
The only thing more important to Spencer was his faith. He was a man who loved the Lord with all his soul and all his might, and in doing so he was an amazing example of faith to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Spencer and his wife were longtime members of their church, and for years they were active in the Church of God, celebrating all the annual feast days. Their church allowed them to travel to many parts of the United States over the years as well. He loved to dress well and was an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and who could forget Spencer in his flip flops!
After retiring in 1981, Spencer and Mary Jeanne traveled more. They often visited their sons and their families who lived all over the country from California, Florida, and Texas to Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Spencer loved being with his grandchildren, telling them stories, doing show and tell with them, and especially taking naps with them. He was an avid reader of anything and everything, and he loved classical music. Spencer and Mary Jeanne were passionate about Native American culture and loved to visit the Southwest. For long as he was able, Spencer loved hunting and fishing, and for many years they raised Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. When Mary Jeanne developed health issues, they decided to move to Waterford Place in 2010. As her health diminished she moved to a care facility, and she passed away on Monday, August 15, 2011. Spencer’s strong faith and the love of his family sustained him during this time. He went on with life while continuing to delight in his family and read all kinds of books. As his own health diminished just a few weeks ago, Spencer knew he was ready to meet his wife, but most of all his Lord and Savior.
A man of honor, integrity, and sound moral character, Spencer Swanson was an extraordinary man. He was a devoted father and fun-loving grandfather who will be remembered for wearing flip flops and his love for taking naps with the young ones, yet his faith will be his shining legacy. Life was not always easy for Spencer, but his faith and love for his Lord never wavered. He will never be forgotten.
Spencer Swanson, aged 93, formerly of Battle Creek, MI, went to be with his Lord and Savior on Wednesday morning, October 26, 2016. He was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Mary Jeanne Franklin Swanson, and his daughters-in-law, Bethaney Swanson and Cynthia Swanson, his brother Oliver (Nancy) Swanson and his sister-in-law, Ida Bell Swanson. He is survived by his children, John (Deb) Swanson, James (Ione) Swanson, Jeremy Swanson, Jeffrey (Janice) Swanson, Joel Swanson; his 12 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren; his brother Perry Brooks Swanson; many nieces, nephews and friends. Spencer retired from the Federal Government where he worked for over 40 years. He was a loving and dedicated husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and a friend to all who knew him. He loved the Lord and his family above all things. He will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered. Cremation has taken place. A service to celebrate Spencer’s life will be held at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, on Sunday January 15, 2017 at 1:30 PM, with a time of visitation on Sunday from 12:30 - 1:30 PM. To read more about Spencer’s life, to sign his guest book and to leave your own memory of him, visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com