Don Swart (1934-2020)

Jul 1, 2020


Donald L. Swart of Joseph, Oregon, lost his life on May 12, 2020, after battling cancer for many years. The former publisher and editor of the Wallowa County Chieftain of Enterprise, Oregon, was born at Hot Lake, Oregon, in 1934 to Ruth Shintaffer Swart and Roy Elmer Swart of Lostine, Oregon.

He was one of 10 children — four girls and six boys. Don began his education at the tiny school in Evans, a settlement near Lostine, attended third grade at the Lostine Grade School, and completed elementary, secondary and college in LaGrande.

Don taught music in the Union School for two years. On June 10, 1956, he married Gail Coffin of Enterprise.

Don and Gail had five children: Rick Swart, currently in Eagle Creek, Oregon, and also a former editor of the Chieftain; Donald Swart Jr., who is an active member of the Enterprise community; Jennifer Swart Kirkeide, a former nurse who lives in Missoula, Montana; David Swart of Shelton, Washington, recently retired from the Bellevue Fire Department; and Lisa Swart Phillips, office administrator for the Fife, Washington, dental office that she and her husband own.
Don was an excellent musician. He was selected as a member of the 8th Army Band in Korea, where he played trumpet and French horn, and he served as company clerk. While in the band, Don was recruited and trained as a pilot on the sophisticated U-2 airplane and flew secret reconnaissance missions over rival Asian countries.

Following his military service, he returned home to Wallowa County to work with his father-in-law, Gwen T. Coffin, then publisher of the Wallowa County Chieftain. Don purchased the newspaper and eventually sold it to his son, Rick, in 2000.

Don married Evelyn on July 21, 2001. The couple has lived in their home in Joseph ever since, although they traveled frequently to destinations such as Europe, Thailand, Hawaii and Alaska.

Swart was an active member of the Wallowa County community and served in many organizations in leadership positions. He was a long-time choir director at the Community Church, (the Big Brown Church) in Enterprise. He was a founding director of the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce.

A long-time member of the Rotary Club of Wallowa County, Swart was instrumental in the Rotary International Youth Exchange program. He directed the Rotary District 5100 youth exchange program for seven years. His committee enabled close to 500 American high school students to experience a year in a foreign country. They brought close to 500 students from other countries to live with American families and attend school in the Pacific Northwest for one year.

In 2008, Don received Rotary International’s “Service Above Self” Award, the organization’s highest honor. In his spare time, Swart enjoyed woodworking in his well-equipped shop.

Don Swart is survived by his wife, Evelyn; sons Rick (Liysa) Swart, Donald Jr. (Sherrol) Swart and David (Stacy) Swart; daughters Jennifer (John) Kirkeide and Lisa (Keith) Phillips; step-sons David Cairns and Jim Cairns; step-daughter Mary Leigh (Dave) Rohrman; sister Carol Collie, brothers Kenneth Swart, Harry Swart and John Swart. Two brothers and two sisters preceded him in death. He is also survived by grandchildren: Adam (LindsayLee) Swart, Josh (Lauren) Martin, Tony (Anna) Swart, Craig (Stacy) Swart, Justin (Whitney) Stenkamp, Michael Swart, Carson Swart, Rachel Phillips, Jake (Lauren) Phillips, Hannah (Ben) Bymaster, Sam Kirkeide; step–grandchildren Jordy (Patrick) Linnell, Tyler Rohrman, Emilyn and Jameina Ketedat Cairns, and nine great–grandchildren. Don considered his many friends as family, as well.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there will be no formal funeral ceremony. In accordance with Don’s request, his body was donated to the medical college at Washington State University in Spokane.

The family is planning a Book of Memories about Don Swart, comprised of memories, thoughts and a few photos of Don contributed by family, friends, neighbors. Copies of this collection will be published in the book and given to those who contribute items to it.

The family suggests memorial gifts to the Wallowa County Health Care Foundation and to the Rotary Club of Wallowa County scholarship program. Memorial gifts to any Wallowa County service organization are appropriate.