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Robert J. Swanson

May 24, 1944 January 31, 2021
Robert J. Swanson
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Obituary for Robert J. Swanson

Robert Joel Swanson, 76, passed away peacefully in his beloved Whiteside County on Jan. 31, 2021.

The many paradoxes of Bob began with his birth in the big city of Chicago to Palmer Swanson Sr. and Margaret (Bowman). He was welcomed home by Palmer Jr. (PC), a bona fide big brother who would become a lifelong mentor to Bob. When Bob was young, the family moved to Minnesota, where his sister Kathleen “Kathy” (Kleiber) was born.

Palmer Sr.’s career in the steel industry eventually brought the family back to Rock Falls, Illinois, where Bob attended high school. He often shared amusing stories of his time spent on the football team and playing tuba in the marching band.

Bob went on to study broadcast communications at Western Illinois University, where he earned his master’s degree. It was during this time that he met Sandra Joy Boonstra, who would become his first wife and mom to Beth Ellen (Don Kusch) and Jennifer Lynn “Jenny” (Andrew Feischl). As Bob tells it, the first time he saw Sandi, she was descending a staircase at a dance and was bathed in a bright, white light appearing “as luminous as an angel.” Sadly, an auto accident called Sandi home to Heaven in 1972.

Now a single father to two young daughters, Bob began his teaching career at Rock Falls High School. Beloved by his students, Bob taught English literature, speech, and dramatics. Among his greatest joys was his time spent directing the school plays. His girls would often tag along to play practice, which helped to instill in his daughters a deep love of the arts. Bob had an incredibly mellifluous voice and would read to his girls at bedtime, always closing with “More…tomorrow.”

It was at the beginning of the school year in 1976 that Bob met Susan Elizabeth Gass, a student teacher from downstate Belleville, Illinois. For Bob, it was love at first sight and in just a few short months, Sue and Bob were married. The lovebirds cherished each and every moment with one another for 32 blissful years until Sue, our beautiful angel, returned to Heaven.

A proud Scandinavian, Bob moved the family to Minnesota for a time before returning to Whiteside County. Bob relished the beauty and tranquility of rural Lyndon, Illinois, where he remained for the rest of his life. He thoroughly enjoyed mowing his two acres of land, riding all day and into the night on his John Deere tractor to make sure the lawn was perfectly manicured.

Bob was an intelligent, humorous, unique man. A devoted, gentle, romantic husband. A doting, fun, one-of-a-kind daddy. A truly good friend to JB—and vice versa. He was a fan of classic rock music, a passion he passed on to his girls by taking them to concerts and leading lively sing-alongs in the car. A World War II history buff, Bob was exceedingly grateful to those who gave their service to our country.

He loved reading and collecting dictionaries and was tickled by wordplay and puns. A self-affirmed Luddite, Bob was always armed with a pen and Post-It Notes to jot down language gems for his yet-to-be-published literary masterpiece. As Bob would say, “Finish it? Why would I finish it?”

To paraphrase Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and Bob—he took the road less traveled by; and that has made all the difference.”

Bob will be interred at Lyndon cemetery next to Sue…in the Whiteside County that he so loved. The family will be celebrating Bob's life with private services. In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established.

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