Robert Walter Swanson was born Oct. 31, 1919 to Swedish immigrant father John T. Swanson and his wife Ella (Anderson) in Mount Vernon, WA. He lived his entire life on a farm in the Nookachamps area, including time with his grandparents after his mother died when Bob was six. During his childhood he worked hard on the farm, producing crops and dairy cattle. His favorite childhood memories included fishing and swimming in Nookachamps creek and going to town to watch movies. He rode a horse and buggy to town to deliver lunch to his maternal grandfather, a craftsman who did impressive plastering at the Skagit County Courthouse and Lincoln Theatre. Bob started his education in a one-room school house and graduated from Mount Vernon Union High School in 1939. As a teen, he planted and sold strawberries and drove a Model T.
Bob joined the Navy in 1942, serving on the USS New York and the USS Franklin. On March 19, 1945, the Franklin was attacked for a second time. Trapped in a boiler room, Bob survived a horrific situation as bombs exploded and fire surrounded him and his shipmates. More than 800 men died that day and Bob was fortunate to be part of the crew that brought home the most heavily damaged ship to make it back to port on its own power. As with many members of the “greatest generation,” he never talked about his experience until later in life when he attended many ship reunions, where his family learned he was a hero!
He returned home after the war and worked first at Highland Pacific Dairy and then for many years at Darigold. Being a milk truck driver, Bob knew many people in Skagit County and was known by all as a very kind man.
While working at the downtown dairy, he met his first wife, Aletha (Kitty) Herzberg. They were married July 11, 1947, and raised six children. Bob kept the family together as a tight and loving group after Aletha died of cancer in 1969. During his years at Darigold, he continued to enjoy small farming, including cows, pigs and a raspberry patch that helped his children learn their parents’ values of faith, hard work, education and family fun.
In 1980, also while on his dairy route, he met Adrianna Hamm. His family doubled in size when he married Adrianna on Oct. 28, 1980.
In their retirement years, Bob and Adrianna enjoyed camping, growing and canning produce, traveling, holidays and family reunions, especially any time they could be with their grandchildren. Wonderful memories were created each spring camping with “Grandpa Bob” at Pearrygin Lake State Park. Bob raised dahlias and loved sharing them with family, friends and the couple’s church.
He was preceded in death by first wife Aletha, son Donald, brother John, and his USS Franklin shipmates.
He is survived by his wife Adrianna; his children, Marlene Hansen, Shirley Swanson (Sherry), Bob Swanson (Jennifer), Janis Swanson (Lester), Carol Donovan (Richard); daughter-in-law, Moira Frey; grandchildren, Stephen Hansen, Dane Swanson, Courtney Gonzales (Johnny), Timmy Swanson, Jessie Donovan, Alex Swanson, Gracie Donovan (Florin), Ethan Donovan; one great grandchild, Kitty Gonzales; special supporters Richard Sanchez and David Herzberg; and many nieces, nephews, stepchildren and their families, who are part of the blended family he shared with Adrianna.
The family thanks the caregivers at Skagit Valley Senior Village for their excellent care and compassion and their appreciation of Bob’s personality and sense of humor.
Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday June 2, at the First Christian Reform Church, 701 W. Blackburn Rd, Mount Vernon, WA.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society .
Published in Skagit Valley Herald Publishing Company from June 29 to June 30, 2014