Joe Donald SwensonMay 27, 1944 ~ November 12, 2017 (age 73)
Joe Swenson died Sunday, November 12, 2017 following a brief illness in Houston Methodist Hospital. Joe was preceded in death by his beloved parents Ruby Cozby and Gus Swenson. He was born in Houston, Texas on May 27, 1944 as the youngest of three siblings.
Joe grew up in Highlands, Texas and graduated from Baytown’s Robert E. Lee high school in 1962. He also attended Allen Military Academy and Stephen F Austin University before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1965. In the Navy, Joe became a member of the Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Seabees. During his time in the Navy, Joe was stationed in Vietnam, Rhode Island, the U.S. Virgin Islands and McMurdo Station, Antarctica. He did reach the South Pole while serving at McMurdo and had many stories to tell of his adventures there.
Following his time in the service, Joe returned to Highlands and spent time with his father adding on to their house. He soon found employment at Reynolds Aluminum as an operator and stayed there for 27 years until the Houston plant closed in the late 1990’s. Joe went back to school at that time for training in chemical process technology at San Jacinto College North campus. The industry was backing off of hiring at the time that Joe completed his training, so he turned to the Pasadena Independent School District and became a school bus driver. Joe grew to love his days with the children and they respected him for not putting up with any foolishness. He retired from P.I.S.D. after 12 years of service.
Soon after leaving the Navy, Joe was introduced to Sue Quinn by their mutual friend Betty Dorman. On August 21, 1971, they began 46 years of marriage filled with laughter, fun, and travel. While Joe loved all parts of Texas, he did manage to visit all 50 states, including 5 trips to his favorite destination, Alaska. In between, he traveled to Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, England, Ireland, Venezuela, Aruba, Mexico, and all of the islands of the Caribbean except Cuba. He and Sue purchased acreage at Terlingua Ranch in the Big Bend area in 1972 and spent many vacations there camping, hiking, and rafting the magnificent canyons of the Rio Grande through Big Bend National Park. In addition, he and Sue managed to visit every State Park in Texas and almost every National Park across the country.
Joe became involved as a volunteer with the Big Brothers-Big Sisters organization during the early 1980’s and really enjoyed sharing his time with Tommy, his “little brother” for several years. Joe transitioned from big brother to proud father on June 7, 1983, when he and Sue had their own child, Heather Leigh Swenson. Joe kept a close eye on her as she grew from baby daughter through college to the bright, independent woman she is today. She can attribute her sharp wit to her father’s genes. Joe always had a devilish sense of humor and found it easy to make strangers laugh and close friends cringe when it was directed at them. From childhood through his final years, the most common refrain heard in his presence was “Oh, Joe!”
Joe loved animals of all types and sizes. While in the F.F.A. at Lee high school, he did not want to raise a cow and received special permission to raise 2 horses. He also performed in some amateur rodeo events. He had several dogs in his lifetime, but Tippy was his favorite, living 21 years from his childhood until he returned home from the Navy.
Joe was a fan of Texas roots and country music as well as rock for most of his life, especially the Eagles, which he played relentlessly. He also enjoyed home cooking, dining out, and good wine.
In addition to camping, hiking, and rafting, Joe loved to go tubing on the rivers of the Texas Hill Country. He also took up scuba diving for a number of years. In his later years, he became an avid bird watcher and loved to visit the Texas coast from Galveston down to Corpus Christi to spot the sea birds and catch the migratory patterns of birds that wintered there. He would often go to the coast during the week to avoid the weekend crowds and enjoy the peace.
Joe is survived by his wife Sue, their daughter Heather, his two sisters and their husbands: Gusta Cathey (Joe Scott), and Nancy Lane (Claude), mother-in-law Barbara Quinn, sisters-in-law and spouses Ann Todd (Jerry) and Nancy Llamo (Hugo), brother-in-law and spouse Jimmy Quinn (Lynne), and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, and grand-nephews.
The Swenson family would like to express our sincere thanks to Dr. Stephen Koch, MD, Dr. Michael Reader, MD, and Dr. Kevin Grimes, MD for the excellent care afforded Joe during his illness. We also thank Mr. Frank Stokes, NP, and the excellent staff of the Houston Methodist SICU, especially Luke, Angela, Becky, Blessie, and Susan, for their exceptional care.
The family will host a visitation at two o’clock in the afternoon with the memorial service following at three o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, November 25, 2017 at Bradshaw-Carter Memorial & Funeral Services, 1734 W Alabama St, Houston, Texas, 77098.
The family suggests memorial gifts to the National Park Service Foundation, c/o Office of Budget Execution, Shelley McClean, 1849 C St (MS2280), Washington, D.C. 20240; or online at www.nationalparks.org. The gift can support the overall work of the NPS, a specific program, or your favorite national park.