Vernon Roy Rowell Swaim

5 entries
  • "Vern was quiet, intelligent, amazingly active and funny in..."
    - Susan Nelson
  • "I knew him for such a short time, much too short, as a..."
    - Linda Wallers
  • "This man has been in and out of my life the entire time. I..."
    - Teresa Perry
  • "Vern was a great man. He was kind, sweet, and loving. We..."
    - Phylliss Smith
  • "We love you and miss you very much Uncle Vern. You were a..."
    - Leslie Chapman
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October 27, 1924 ~ February 17, 2017

Vernon Swaim died on February 17, 2017, in Vancouver, Washington, at age 92. He was born on October 27, 1924, in Kellogg, Idaho. The youngest of three children from Guy Swaim and Jeanne Rowell Swaim, he grew up on a small farm near Rose Lake, Idaho. After graduating from high school in Lewiston, Idaho, Vern enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps during WWII. From 1944-1945, he served as a tail gunner with the 93rd Bomb Group stationed in Hardwick, England, flying 21 missions in B-24 heavy bombers. After the war, Vern returned to Lewiston where he earned a college degree and met Verna Chapman, the younger sister of classmate, Dwight Chapman (now a resident of Vancouver). Vern and Verna were married in 1950.

Vern and Verna settled in Vancouver in 1955, where they raised three children. Vern taught high school math and science until 1963 and then worked as a civil engineer with Bonneville Power Administration until 1986.

Vern was an avid outdoorsman and environmentalist who loved camping, hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, and bicycle riding. He was active in the local Ptarmigan group for decades, completed nine Cycle Oregon trips with his friend Hank Berkquist, and climbed many local peaks, including Mt. Borah just after his 70th birthday. This past summer he was kayaking on the Salmon River in Idaho with his family.

After he retired, Vern and Verna traveled widely in their Toyota Land Cruiser, camping their way from northern Canada to Central America and across the United States multiple times. They also traveled to Europe, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. After Verna died in 1995, Vern continued to travel widely in the US and globally, including Africa, Asia, South America and Antarctica. At the age of 90, he traveled solo in Europe following a reunion of the 93rd Bomb Group in England.

Vern was active in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver from the early 1960s. He helped survey and clear the Chinook Trail along the Washington side of the Columbia River. He also helped build and row to Astoria, a replica boat commemorating the 200th anniversary of Captain Gray's exploration of the Columbia River.

Vern will be remembered by his family and friends for his spirit of adventure, fierce independence, quiet strength, subtle wit, humility, non-judgmental acceptance of others, and willingness to lend a helping hand.

He is survived by three children, Robyn Swaim Phillips (Rancho Mirage, CA and Shoup, ID), Paul Swaim (Paris, France), and Doug Swaim (Salem, OR); five grandchildren, Kyle Swaim (Irvine, CA), Reid Phillips (Los Angeles, CA), Dru Swaim (Kent, WA), Blake Phillips (Washington DC), and Allison Swaim (Portland, OR); and one great-grandchild, Leo Phillips (Los Angeles).

His family will gather this summer to spread his ashes on the same peak where they spread Verna's ashes 22 years ago.

A memorial service will be held on April 8 at 2 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver located at 4505 E 18th Street, Vancouver, WA 98661.

Please sign his guest book at:
Published in The Columbian on Mar. 5, 2017
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