Helen Swanson

1921 — 2012

by Jane Swanson-Nystrom

Helen B. Swanson, member of Cape Cod Covenant Church in Brewster, Massachusetts, and widow of Covenant pastor Richard J. Swanson, died September 9, at her daughter’s home in Chicago. She was three days shy of her ninety-first birthday.

She was born September 12, 1921, in the tiny settlement of Cartwright, Pennsylvania, the eldest child of Gustaf Brumberg and Ruth Winslow. When she was two the family moved to nearby Ridgway. She was a good student and hoped someday to attend college, but she grew up during the Depression and after graduating from high school, she went to work for the phone company and helped support her family.

Central to her life in Ridgway was the Covenant church, where she was part of a large and vibrant youth group. Dick Swanson also grew up attending that church, and by Helen’s senior year they began a romance that would last the rest of their lives.

In the spring of 1944 Helen traveled across country by train to join Dick in Seattle, Washington, where he was stationed with the U.S. Army. They were married on May 12 at First Covenant Church, and the young adults from the congregation made up their wedding party. Within weeks Dick was shipped to the South Pacific, however, and Helen returned to Ridgway. They were apart for almost two years.

In the fall of 1946, they moved to Chicago where Dick realized his dream of preparing for ministry at North Park College and Theological Seminary.

Helen embraced her role as a pastor’s wife. It was her vocation, and she understood their ministry as a joint calling. She loved each place where they lived, and was fully engaged in the life of the churches they served in Pittsburg Pennsylvania; Paxton, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; Galesburg, Illinois; and New Britain, Connecticut; as well as several interim pastorates. In retirement, they lived in East Dennis, Massachusetts.

Among her many talents, Helen had a beautiful soprano voice, and she sang in many church choirs. She was an accomplished seamstress and cook, and had a gift for making people feel welcome as she opened her home to countless friends, travelers, and visitors. People were extremely important to her, and she kept in touch with friends that she had known her whole life and friends she had made in recent years. She also loved to read, take walks, visit over a cup of coffee, and enjoy a Red Sox game.

Helen was preceded in death by Dick in 2010, and by two brothers, Robert and Paul (Gus) Brumberg. She is survived by her son Jim Swanson, daughter Jane Swanson-Nystrom, son-in-law Douglas Nystrom, and three grandchildren, Helena, Anna, and Daniel, all of Chicago.

Memorial services were held September 23 at North Park Covenant Church in Chicago, and October 27 at the Cape Cod Covenant Church.

Peace be to her memory.