The world became a better place when Deanne Lynn Swenson was born June 15, 1962 in Madison, WI. From day one Dee was smiling, spunky, independent, and smart. She attended school in the River Valley School district and graduated with an English degree from the UW-Madison School of Education.
In the book "The Help" a maid repeatedly tells the child in her care that she is kind, she is smart, she is important. We all have the power, every single day, to shape the character of children and help them become the adults that we hope they will be. Dee acted on that power. After teaching HS students for several years she realized that she could have even greater impact on kids by teaching reading skills to young students. She taught elementary reading several years in Richland Center then came back to her alma mater, the Arena Elementary School, where she imbedded reading skills and ingrained the love of reading in her young students. Often heard in the halls there was "Hi Ms. Swenson! I read my face off this weekend!" which generated a big "Way to go!!" and a high 5 from Dee. The school halls were covered with pictures of students who made her "Author Fan Club" achieved by reading 5 books by one author and passing comprehension tests on the books. For 30 years she was an amazing and gifted teacher. Dee opened worlds for kids by helping them open books. She was a critical cog in the workings of the school and the Arena Elementary School received a national "School of Excellence" award in 2012 for their work in Reading, Math and Science. Over the years she helped thousands of kids grow into better readers and more importantly, better humans.
In 1993 Dee moved to the house she helped build on the Swenson home farm. She had a deep love of the organic family farm, the environment, and being her dad's "right hand man." She, her long-time partner Bob, and her dad were all looking forward to working together when she retired. Sadly Dee had her retirement life stolen away from her. Dee and Bob loved hiking, skiing, camping, biking, kayaking, gardening, cooking, canning and entertaining. Over the years Dee earned many unofficial titles—Killer Spiker; Promotions Advocate for Lake Louis Brewing; Principal Dispute Negotiator; Hilly Biker Queen; Plant Whisperer; Tractor Master; and Food Canner-in-Chief.
Dee and Bob's home was the center for family and neighborhood gatherings. As a cook Dee had few peers. Many a person could comfortably bring a bag of potato chips to a potluck because they could rest assured Dee was going to whip up some magnificent, fresh, organic dishes and a batch of her luscious brownies to highlight the potluck. A meal at Dee and Bob's was a true gastronomic delight with both Dee and Bob qualifying as gourmet cooks. Dee loved to entertain hosting her "Apple Squeezing Party" every fall complete with a working antique apple press.
Dee put others' needs in front of her own all the time. This was evident in many ways including her musical contributions. She wasn't a flashy soloist. She sang alto to support sopranos' melodies; she played bassoon to round out the sounds of a band; and she played piano, pump organ, and guitar to accompany others' singing. At Dee and Bob's annual Dec. 24th afternoon caroling party Dee played piano while friends and neighbors partied and sang carols. She was well-known in the area for bringing food to any home where compassion was needed or where help of any kind might be appreciated.
Fate gave us a painfully short time between Dee's diagnosis and her death. Her family went on a horror thrill ride starting in late May through the loops of despair, hope, caution, disbelief, and optimism, ending the ride at abject emptiness. She died at Meriter Hospital in Madison on Aug. 7 leaving behind her grieving family— her soulmate, Bob Johnson, and her parents, Jan and Dean Swenson, her sister Pam (Gary Komo), her brother Doug (Omar Lopez) , two nieces Kylie and Riley Komo, her Aunt and Uncle, Judy and Paul Swenson, 3 cousins (who were like brothers) Jeff Shapiro, Paul Shapiro and Ken Swenson, Aunt and Uncle, John and Pat Sperle and their sons Mark and Kevin, and Bob's sister Becky (Chris Tietze), his two nieces Laura Niemczyk and Johanna Tietze and his two nephews Chris and Mike Niemczyk and nearby friends and neighbors who qualify in every way as extended family.
Henry David Thoreau said "Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each." So that we can reflect on the seasons of Dee's life, there will be a celebration from 2 – 4:30 pm on Sunday Sept 15th at Grandma Mary's Restaurant in Arena. Memorial donations can be made to 4Pete's Sake in her honor or to a to-be-formed Dee Swenson Scholarship Fund (more information will be at Dee's Celebration of Life party).
Online condolences are available at www.staffordfuneralhomes.com.
The Richardson-Stafford Funeral Home in Spring Green is assisting the family with the arrangements.