Cover photo for Tom Swanson's Obituary

Tom Swanson

Tom Swanson

John Thomas Swanson, 78, was called home to be with Jesus on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. He was born August 19, 1943, to Lester and Viola Swanson in Stambaugh, Michigan. #2 of 5 children, he very much enjoyed small-town life. An athlete, he played football (#10 and nicknamed “Tommy the Toe” for kicking extra points) basketball, and tennis. He graduated in 1961 and attended North Park College in Chicago where he earned a BA degree and went on to be a teacher and coach.

Tom met his future bride, Donna Serena, at Covenant Point Bible Camp when she was 14 and he was 16. They married 7 years later at Grace Covenant Church in Stambaugh.

Tom and Donna both got their first teaching jobs at Dansville Agricultural School in Lower Michigan. He also taught at Potterville High School near Lansing, Michigan. It was there that he coached a cross country team that won the state championship and for which he was named coach of the year. He was a much-loved teacher and coach of football, basketball, wrestling, and cross country during his 35 years of teaching.

Then Tom became a daddy to Kyna (a name he invented) in 1968. He proved to be a devoted dad and a 50-50 partner in raising her. Kyna enjoyed following her dad right into the garage workshop where she learned her carpentry skills. Enter Terry into our family, and he got to be her cross country coach and biggest encourager in her life.

In 1980 Tom’s adventuresome spirit found us moving to Boise, Idaho for his new job at Lake Hazel Junior High, then Meridian High, and finally Centennial High before he retired in 2003. Although he taught many subjects from drivers training to civics and math, his biggest goal was to get kids to think about the things that really matter in life.  He used one-liners famously to make wise sayings stick in the minds of kids and he opened his classroom for lunch daily to welcome kids who wanted meaningful conversations. He was always willing to do the extra club, skit, costume, or time to bond with kids and influence eternal things in them. His students loved and appreciated his faithfulness to them. He wanted to know their story and his encouragement to them continued years after they had left the school halls through his use of Facebook for influence and encouragement to those from his childhood through all seasons of his life.  Tom leaves behind two books he wrote loaded with stories about the effective use of one-liners to impact lives.

Our move to Boise was a good one. We met a group of awesome friends (fellowship group) who were involved in the Young Life ministry. Tom and Donna jumped in with both feet and became volunteer leaders with our new area directors, Gary and Jeanne Parsons. First Young Life club was at Capital High, then Meridian High, then BSU, and then traveling to Russia/former Soviet Union countries after retirement in 2003. Tom and Donna have taken 25 trips to these countries to train, encourage, and experience the lives of their BIG adopted spiritual family over there.

Another ministry that Tom and Donna (+ Kyna) took on was being camp directors at Quaker Hill for 2 summers. What an awesome opportunity to have fun and share Jesus with campers from elementary, junior high and high school ages. Camp was a big part of Tom's childhood and wherever he lived, he got involved in the camp ministry of his local church.  He knew camp is where many youths examine their relationship with Jesus and make a decision for Him. Covenant Point, PLCBC, Quaker Hill & Young Life Camps around the world were blessed by his involvement on work crews, boards, and as a counselor and director.

Tom and Donna sold their Boise home and moved to their mountain cabin right along Rock Creek after retirement.  They became members of the Lowman Community Church, and Tom got involved with the volunteer ambulance and fire departments. Living in the mountains was a good fit for Tom and Donna. He started making beautiful wood crafts as Grandpa Tom’s Cabin Crafts, and Donna became “the Rock Creek Quilter”.  And their door was always open to welcome past friends from around the globe to "stay long, talk much," teach the children how to drive the tractor, and how to work hard building and bringing his vision for projects to fruition at "Gramps Camp" and workdays.

Tom will be dearly missed by his wife, Donna, of 55 years, by daughter, Kyna (Rodd) and grandsons, Caleb, Josh, and Alex, and by his daughter, Terry, grandchildren Ross, Tyler (Lacey) Elizabeth and Sam plus great-grandkids - Devonta’, Faith, Kenzli, Brinley, Kambrie.

He is survived by his siblings Dave (Linda), Bruce (Nancy), Kathy (Al), and Paul (Sue). And, how he loved all his wonderful nephews and nieces, cousins, and a bunch of Young Life “sons & daughters” like the Greg and Lara Alexander family.

To all the youth he influenced over the years, we pray that you, too, will live like Tom, invest in people's hearts, always keep the main thing the main thing,  and then pass the baton to the next generation.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 13 from 1-3 p.m. at Cole Community Church, 8775 Ustick Rd.  An interment service at the Lowman Community Church will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, Tom and Donna would be blessed to have any gifts be made to Young Life campership which will be split between local ministries (Boise and West Ada) and Russia/FSU. The link for giving in memory of Tom Swanson: Swanson.

Checks to Young Life with note “XD322, Tom Swanson” can be mailed to:

Young Life, PO Box, 70065, Prescott, AZ 86304-7065

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Tom Swanson, please visit our flower store.


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