Don Swanjord

Don Swanjord

Don SwanjordDon Edward Swanjord, 70, of Balaton, died suddenly on December 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. He was the husband of Charlotte Wendel of Marshall. Memorial services will be at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, December 30 at Sillerud Lutheran Church, rural Balaton. Visitation is 6:00-8:30 p.m. Monday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Balaton with a prayer service at 8:30 p.m. Burial is in Zion Lutheran Cemetery.  In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to Balaton Historical Society. Online condolences may be sent at Stephens Funeral Service – Tracy Area Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

Don was born in Tracy, Minnesota on March 7, 1944, son of Norman and Evelyn (Daniels) Swanjord, and brother of Kent. He grew up on the Swanjord family farm where his love of the area’s community and history was developed. After high school in Balaton, Don graduated from Carleton College in 1964, majoring in History. He then attended Yale University where he studied Ancient Middle East Languages. Don was fluent in at least 6 languages and there was seemingly not a musical instrument he could not play. Don received a PhD in Education from the University of California. Don’s love of history, language and community were an important staple of his life. Don married Texas Sabine Whiteman (deceased) on November 18, 1976 in New Haven, CT. Don and Texas lived in Iran, Yemen, Kuwait, and Iraq where they taught and administered education programs for several American universities and for the US Department of State. Since 1992, Don made his primary residence in Balaton while maintaining a second home in Madison, Connecticut. Don was a director of the State of Minnesota English as a Second Language program with responsibilities for programs throughout the state. Recently, Don taught adult education classes in a variety of subjects relating to Islam and the Middle East, to capacity classes at SMSU. Don taught classes at SMSU and SWSC and was Superintendent of Schools in Balaton. Don was a founder of East River Farm in Guilford, Connecticut, the Yankton Country School and WALA in Minnesota. Don was also a founding member of the Balaton Historical Society. Don was especially interested in preserving the structures, stories and history of Balaton. Through his wonderful work he was able to rescue many of the area’s unique historically significant buildings (including houses, churches, and school buildings) and record the wonderful and diverse history of Balaton and the surrounding area, securing it for future generations. Since 2004, Don was proprietor of Balaton House Bed and Breakfast, and wrote Grace and God’s Words: Sillerud Lutheran Church at 125 years: 1873 – 1998. Don married Charlotte Wendel on October 19, 2013. They supported each other’s interests and made many trips during their time together, including a visit to Charlotte’s relatives in Sweden and a cruise on the Saint Lawrence River. Don was an excellent musician and provided piano accompaniment at his church and at Charlotte’s ballet school.

In addition to his wife, Don is survived by his brother, Kent Swanjord, and his wife Patricia; his nephews Scott Swanjord and Grant Swanjord and their spouses and children; his step children, Mark Whiteman, Leigh Whiteman, Kevin Whiteman, Jason Whiteman, Bradford Whiteman, their spouses, children and grandchildren; Charlotte’s daughters Holly Isaac, Kristen Klingenberg, and Danielle Gies and their spouses and children; as well as many cousins, nieces and nephews, other relatives and many, many friends.

9 thoughts on “Don Swanjord”

  1. Though I’m sad about Don’s death, I am very happy to have been blessed with knowing him and having the memories I have of him throughout the years. Aside from being my cousin, Don was a friend. His kindness and wisdom are qualities that I will always remember about him. He was a magnificent person in many respects, and he made a significant impact on the lives of many people near and far. God bless you Don, and thanks for all the memories. I’m sure you are playing piano with the angels now. My sympathies are with all who knew you and have lost you here on earth. Your memory and good works will live on in us forever.

  2. So very sorry to learn of Don’s departure. Two summers ago. Alison Arngrim and I stayed in the B & B. Don was a wonderful host, getting us started, and simply leaving us to enjoy the place. In the two days I knew him, I realized what an erudite, fascinating, kind person he was, so full of interesting ventures and stories—plus a deep love for sw Minnesota. It was a pleasure to meet him. Condolences to his family and friends.

  3. A lifetime of achievement in so many practical areas that touched the lives of countless people: that’s a pretty good legacy. All conversations with Don were insightful and interesting–whether 50 years ago at Carleton or yesterday. Our world has just gotten smaller. We will miss him.

  4. First time I met Don was at Tracy Headlight Herald in September 2009. I was digging after obits of the Johnsons whom had lived in the Balaton area. I was on the way back to Twin Cities, but he convinced me to stay at his B and B in Balaton. After that I came the whole way from Sweden at least once a year. We talked about the Johnsons, Ericksons, the Mumbys, and other families whom had lived in that area. Don showed me places where they could have lived, and about the history of Balaton, Murray county, Lyon county, and Sillerud Lutheran Church, and other churches in the area. I attended his wedding last year, and the funeral of Texas in 2011. This summer he and Charlotte came to Sweden, and for a couple of days they visited my city, Lidköping in Sweden. Last time I met Don and Charlotte was in beginning of October. We talked about future plans. One of them was that I started to build website of the Johnsons and other relatives in my genealogy. Unfortunately Don passed away before I was ready to introduce it to him. I am very happy and blessed to have had the opportunity to know Don, and will have memories of him many, many years from now. I would like to send my condolences to his family and all that have met this wonderful man. God bless you Don, and thanks for all the memories that you given us.

  5. I met Don years ago when I worked for a Polish export company operating in Baghdad. I used some of my free there to participate in English courses offered by the American Cultural Center. Don happened to be my teacher, and a wonderful one, patient and generous with his time and also interested in students’ backgrounds so it was quite easy for me to make him interested in Poland, its history and culture. When Don and Texas concluded their term in Iraq and decided to make a trip to Europe, Poland included, I arranged for them to be taken care there by my Polish friends. Later on when I left Iraq I had a pleasure to see Don in Warsaw where he came for a short visit. And after a year or two I was invited by Don and Texas to visit them in Minnesota. Don showed me a lot of places and never was tired with answering questions and giving explanations. He was full of ethusiasm for the local history, antiques and historical monuments. Don wrote to me after Vaclav Havel death – as we used to talk about other slavic countries as well, myself being a slavist. I promised myself to write him a long letter about my American imppresions – as I now live in the States as well as in Poland but I never managed todo so. But today – out of some urge – I went to internet and was shocked and deeply saddened by the news about Don’s passing. he was a dear friend and a wonderful person who treated his life as a service to his country, other people and his community. I am sorry, so very sorry.

  6. Ken & Margaret Swanson

    Remember Don teaching classes at Senior College (GOLD COLLEGE) at SMSU … always enjoyed taking his classes as he knew so much from first hand experience & was willing to share.
    Our thoughts & prayers are with you all.
    Ken & Margaret

  7. Don and Texas were friends when I served as a pastor in Marshall for five years (1998-2003). They were guest presenters at our church, speaking about Islam, and women in Islam, and had great insights and stories, as well as vast knowledge to share with our congregation. I saw them often at church and synod events, as they were very active and faithful. They were very supportive of efforts to understand the history and culture and current needs of Somalian refugees who had resettled in Marshall and Willmar. I marveled at Don’s depth of knowledge, and his kindness. He was a true community leader, deep Christian person, gifted linguist and teacher. My life has been richly blessed by knowing Don (and his first wife Texas). Truly the world is a better place because of Don’s life. “A life well lived”.
    Dan Belgum-Blad

  8. Wesley Hromatko, D.MIn.

    Marilyn and I felt very sad when we heard of Don’s death. He was very interesting as a conversationalist and knew a great deal about the Middle East. We will miss him. We send our best wishes to his wife Charlotte and family.

    Wes Hromatko

  9. Rik and Diane Musty

    After connecting with Don and Charlotte at our 50th Carleton Reunion, we were planning on a visit when we passed
    though Pipestone last week. We were looking forward to meeting with both since they had traveled to Sweden last summer. Don will be missed by all of us from the Carleton Class of 1964 and from us our hearts are with you Charlotte.

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