When death hits a family, how they react partly depends on culture and family tradition. In the last few years, I’ve attended a three-day long visitation followed by a formal presentation, a crying fest in someone’s backyard and a clubhouse party of eats and greets. The Swopes have chosen to celebrate Dad’s passing in much the same way as he lived his life: in quiet dignity.
Like all people, Dad could rant and rave when he was passionate about a topic. But he did so only in front of family and a few friends. I cannot honestly remember him telling someone off. When we were growing up, mom’s biggest threat was, “wait until your father gets home,” but nothing ever happened once that big event arrived. Dad never raised a hand to strike anyone in his life that I know of, and though I suspect he would have defended anyone he loved that was threatened, God spared him that necessity.
I guess if I had to describe who Robert Swope was, I would use the words “respectful” and “respected.” He looked for the good in everyone to a level that caused him some pain in his life. But he also garnered respect himself because he was persistent in believing in the value of people and of his community. He believed in Edgerton—its school and its sports teams and its businesses. He believed in his country (though Democrats and Congress were two of the things he did rave about). He believed in his church and its ability to heal and support. He believed in his partner in marriage and loved her deeply. And he believed in the rest of his family—from the brother in Texas who he worried about even when he was in the middle of the fog of Alzheimers to his kids, whose names he could not remember at the end, but whose smiles and faces he would not forget. He knew who was family.
The world could use more people like my Dad: there are just too many people who believe in nothing or, even worse, believe they need to tell the rest of society how to live. He was an idealist, not a realist, but the world needs more people who haven’t been sullied by bitterness or ego.
I had the rare privilege of following my father around Edgerton a few summers as he “called upon” potential advertisers and editorial sources. I was still in college, and the experience has been one I’ve carried close to my heart ever since. What I saw as he talked to people was that, through his friendly attitude, his inquiries about their well-being and business, and his respect for their time, he had gained respect in turn.
There will be no grand speeches at Krill Funeral Home June 20 as we memorialize Bob Swope. Only the family members who loved him fiercely and some of the people in his hometown whose lives he touched. Dad would not want a fuss—he’d just want us all there.
Genilee Swope Parente