Raymond Lester Swanson, 92, of North Platte, died of natural causes on Friday, April 5, 2013, in North Platte. Raymond was born June 25, 1920, in Genoa to Elmer Frederick and Ethel Anna Marie (Lundgren) Swanson. He was the oldest child and had 13 brothers and sisters.
He was industrious and always ready to lend a hand. His work ethic, based on the need to support his family, steered his course throughout his life. As a young man he was an excellent horseman and worked on threshing crews across the Great Plains of Nebraska.
Most people who have known Ray later in life would find it hard to believe that he was a shy, bashful boy. He got his sister, Jean, involved in order to meet and court Phyllis Esau who he married Feb. 26, 1941, in Osceola. Their children are Judie, Jerry, Rod and Rona. Ray served in the U.S. Army during WWII in the Pacific.
He and Phyllis lived on a farm with Vernon and Arlene Swanson near Osceola. After a tornado destroyed the farm, they moved to Lincoln where he delivered Omar Bread and played baseball. Later they lived in Grand Island where he owned Swanson TV and Appliance. Phyllis succumbed to cancer in 1966.
Ray then married Laura Lee. Ray also became legal guardian of Dona and Deanna Esau. Together, Ray and Laura became the first house parents at the Nebraska Children''s Home in Culbertson. Tragically, Laura passed away from cancer in November 1971.
It was then that Ray met Donna (Johnson) Hinton. They were married on Jan. 8, 1972, and shared 41 wonderful years together. Donna''s children – Deloit, Bernita, Everett, Lorraine and Laurence became Ray''s children as well. They have lived in Culbertson, Indianola, McCook and Wauneta where he helped on the Wesley Wheeler ranch in his retirement from age 62 to 82, and he also served as the preacher at Wauneta and Stratton Churches of Christ. They later moved to North Platte where they have lived the last 10 years and are members of the Church of Christ on Walker Road.
Realizing the challenge to keep the families connected, Ray and Donna organized a reunion every other year at the Nebraska Youth Camp in Kearney. For more than 30 years, the Swansons and Hintons have converged together at that spot in August. Sharing rousing games, laughter and the play of children, grandchildren and then great-grandchildren as they swam, ran and played built precious memories together.
Those who have had the privilege of knowing Ray will recount the broad grin, firm handshake that was his bond, and the integrity that marked his life. To say that Ray was competitive in a game of cards is a vast understatement, but he was also invariably kind and tenderhearted to those who needed a leg up in life.
Ray was a devout follower of Christ and blessed many lives with his generous ways, willingness to serve and the sharing of his faith. While he was not a gifted crooner himself, he loved the hymns of the Church and took joy in participating in worship services and daily Bible study.
With Ray''s 4 children, his wife, Donna''s 5 children, the 29 grandchildren; 57 great-grandchildren, 4 great great-grandchildren and the next great great-grandchild due in June, that will make 100 descendants.
Ray is survived by his wife, Donna (Hinton)Swanson, of North Platte; four siblings, Phyllis Schick, of Columbus, Ohio , Maxine (Joe) Haun, of Polk, Jimmy (Joan) Swanson, of Hordville and Rosalee (Red)Paulson, of McMinnville, Ore.; and his children, Judie (Larry) Brewster of Worland, Wyo., Jerry (Donna) Swanson of Loveland, Colo., Rod (Connie) Swanson of Foster City, Calif., Rona (Sam) Swanson of Visalia, Calif., Deloit (Carol) Hinton of Pleasonton, Calif., Bernita (John) Owens of Stockville, Everett (Ann) Hinton of Hastings, Lorraine (Hinton) Herrick of Champion, Laurence (Tamara) of North Platte, Dona (Lahi) Songbandi of Aurora, Colo. and DeAnna (Jerry)Rains of Denver, Colo.
Also preceding him in death were his parents, Elmer and Marie Swanson; nine siblings; and a granddaughter, Rebekah Swanson.
Memorials are suggested to Nebraska Youth Camp, Mountain States Children''s Home or House of Compassion.
Funeral service will be at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, 2013, at the Church of Christ on Walker Road. Burial will be Friday in Westlawn Memorial Park in Grand Island. Odean Colonial Chapel is in charge of arrangements.