30 July 2013
Nancy Swenson, Long-time WI&M Cook, Passes Away
Posted: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:00 am
Nancy Mary Swenson died suddenly Friday, July 19, 2013, at her home in Potlatch. Nancy was born Nov. 30, 1914, in Avon, Idaho, and was the oldest of nine children born to William and Maude Hawkins Kleer. Nancy was baking bread daily for the entire family while standing on a wooden box to reach the kitchen counter from the time she was about 10 years old. She continued to be a fabulous baker her entire life and was widely known for her extraordinary "Nancy Rolls" and for her amazing cinnamon rolls, made from the same recipe and which created their own delicious caramel sauce when turned out of the pan. Nancy never felt a day was well-lived unless she had tackled some difficult task and/or performed physical labor, of which washing and ironing clothes, together with canning fruit, were some of her most favorite kinds of work. No dirty job was too big or too difficult, but she would keep at it until it was done. This was a woman who even vacuumed her daughter's firewood so that it would be clean before being burned. Nancy was indefatigable; she worked her entire life, beginning when she left school in the 10th grade at Deary High School to help the family by keeping house and caring for the children of neighbors for 25 cents a day.
Nancy married Harry Francis Swenson, also of Deary, Oct. 22, 1934. They were married until his death in 1970. Harry worked for the railroad, and for a while they lived in a railroad box car that was outfitted as a kitchen and eating area with a bed in the back so that she could cook for and feed the section crew while Harry and coworkers were building bridges for the Washington, Idaho & Montana Railway. Later, Harry and Nancy moved full time to Potlatch, where she raised chickens to eat and sell from the garage on Pine Street and later in the chicken coops that were part of the property on Maple Street, where she continued to live until her death. She could slaughter, pluck and dress a chicken in a matter of a few minutes. She split her own firewood until she was 96. Nancy worked outside the home too, first caring for a longtime next-door neighbor and then for the John and Florence Trueman family by keeping house and caring for their children, Jay, Meg and Mike - all of whom she felt were like her own. She later went to work in the stores owned by the Truemans, first in Onaway and then in Potlatch. After her husband's death she enjoyed traveling, including a cruise to Alaska, going to Idaho, Hawaii and Montana, driving to Oregon to see her sisters and visiting her daughter in California and Seattle many times. She also traveled to visit John and Florence Trueman in Arizona and Mexico. After her first "retirement" she went back to work twice, once at the hardware store, then in Potlatch, where she loved that she learned about all kinds of tools, about mixing paint and practical do-it-yourself skills. She was an avid reader and also made beautiful afghans and rugs.
Nancy was a longtime active member of the Mistletoe Rebekah Lodge in Potlatch until it dissolved, and for many, many years she was a volunteer at the senior center in Potlatch, where she set tables and collected the donations, among other tasks. Nancy had a zest for life, treasuring every day, and she was always positive and looking for the best in things and people. She had great friends and was a great friend to others. One example is that one of her friends, Meg Trueman Ballard, retired from her job in Billings, Mont., in June so that she could move to Potlatch to care for Nancy so that Nancy could continue to live in her own home rather than move to Seattle to live with her daughter or to go to a nursing home. Meg and she had several wonderful weeks together before her death, and there are no words to express what a wonderful gift those weeks were for Nancy.
Nancy was preceded in death by her husband and parents; by her brothers, Kenneth Kleer, Clifford Kleer and Herbert Kleer; and by her sisters, Alma Prickett and Donna Kleer. She is survived by her daughter, Sharon Swenson Howard and her husband Chris Matson of Seattle; by her Trueman "children"; and by her sisters, Irma Lunsford of Avon, Idaho, Dixie Graham of The Dalles, Ore., and Nina Sandquist of Salem, Ore.; as well as by nine nieces and nephews and many good and special friends. Those friends include those who so generously supported her over the past few years, allowing her to live alone so well and for whom special thanks are hereby extended, among others, to Elaine Johnson and Norman and Diana Johnson, to Sharon Largent Montgomery and to Randy and Gayle Bryngelson.
In accordance with Nancy's wishes, there will be no services held. The family suggests memorials be made to the city of Potlatch Senior Center.