Funeral services for Gloria J. J. Swanson, 81, of Ogallala will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 21, 2022, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Ogallala, with Pastor Albert Bader officiating. A second service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, Nebraska, with Pastor Norlyn Bartens officiating. Inurnment will be at West Cedar Valley Cemetery north of Elgin.
Gloria Jean Joan Swanson was born on April 24, 1940, the second of two children to Elis ‘Bud’ Francis and Bessie Antonia (Nissen) Hawks on the family farm outside Elgin, Nebraska. She spent her childhood years with her sister Darlene and cousin, Robert ‘Bob’ Nissen, who came to live with the Hawks family after the death of his own father, as well as a large number of extended family and friends from the community. She was baptized into the Lutheran faith on October 20, 1940, and received her Confirmation on June 6, 1954, both at Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin.
Gloria was raised and educated near and in Elgin, attending school at the country schoolhouse called District No. 1 east of town on the Cedar Creek, followed by Elgin Public School, from which she graduated with the class of 1958. On September 6, 1959, she began courses at the Commercial Extension Business College in Omaha, Nebraska. She lived in an apartment in what is now the Dundee neighborhood of Omaha and babysat for a family for extra income. She also worked for Pendleton Woolen Mills during her time at the business college, from whom she was awarded two weeks of free schooling by IBM on their computers, well before computers became such a big part of our modern lives. Gloria graduated in the Fall of 1961, earning a degree in office and secretarial work. Not long after graduating, she returned to Elgin.
One year later, Mabel Miller, Gloria's good friend, and her brother Chipper (Charles) Miller, devised a plan to bring together each of their good friends in a romantic way. Mabel convinced Gloria that they should spend an evening in nearby Neligh, where Chipper had conveniently brought his friend, Wayne Swanson, the same night. Wayne and Gloria knew each other as schoolmates both at District No. 1 and Elgin Public School, but had not gotten to know each other much beyond that. Mabel and Gloria were cruising Neligh’s main street in Gloria’s red and white 1955 Chevy ragtop, while Chipper and Wayne were in Wayne’s white 1959 Ford Fairlane 500 2-door hardtop with a 300 cubic inch engine that, by Wayne’s account, could do 90 mph in low overdrive. Gloria’s Chevy was so loud that the local police asked her to leave town. Wayne and Chipper followed them out, taking turns passing and being passed by Gloria and Mabel all the way back to Elgin. At the bowling alley there, Wayne kept score in Japanese, showing off what he’d learned during his time in the US Marine Corps overseas, and Chipper and Mabel spent their time talking him into asking Gloria out on a date. A couple days later Wayne called, asking Gloria to accompany him to watch a movie at the Neligh drive-in theater. At the end of their date Wayne asked, "Are you gonna marry me someday?” Three months later they did just that.
On January 27, 1963, Wayne and Gloria were united in marriage at Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin. They lived in Elgin, Columbus, Norfolk, and Ogallala, Nebraska. Born to Wayne and Gloria were four children: Monti Carl, Christine Marie, Lori Jean, and John Wesley. Once all four children were of school age, Gloria worked for Quick Electric, Nelson’s Dairy Crème, and the Ogallala Community Hospital, choosing to retire in November 1998, one month after Wayne had retired from Nebraska Public Power District. On January 1, 2006, Gloria was the fortunate recipient of a kidney transplant, which gave her many more years with those she loved and those who loved her. Gloria and Wayne both volunteered for several years with the Keith-Arthur County Food Pantry. She had been a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Elgin, Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Norfolk, and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Ogallala. Wayne and Gloria lived together in the same house in Ogallala since 1972. In 2019, Wayne moved to Indian Hills Manor and, after a battle with COVID-19 in September 2021, Gloria joined him there for what was meant to be a temporary stay for rehabilitation.
Gloria spent her free time reading book after book, sometimes finishing one before bedtime on the same day on which she had first opened its cover. She was a lover of many types of plants, whether indoors or out, and even created her own yucca garden in a section of their front yard. She grew a cactus so tall Wayne had to anchor it to the wall every few feet to keep it upright. She loved animals and the family had many pets over the years, including dogs, cats, a gerbil, hamsters, aquariums with a variety of fish, a raccoon for a short time, and for many summers a small flock of baby ducks and geese. She even loved the garter snakes that she found in the yard, including the occasional one or two that found their way into the house, choosing to turn them loose and alive in one of her flowerbeds rather than…. well, you know. Gloria loved cooking and made delicious meals (Wayne’s cooking was not bad either). She baked muffins and banana bread in the middle of the night when she had trouble sleeping. She received requests for her Seven Layer Mexican Dip at annual family reunions, as well as a few other occasions. She loved flavorful food—the spicier the better, even winning a habanero pepper challenge against her son-in-law and one of his friends. She was known for her colorful clothing and matching sense of humor (tasteful, of course). She enjoyed playing board games and loved watching westerns on TV, especially in her older years.
Gloria was also known for her acceptance and inclusion of the friends of her children and later, her grandchildren. She was called ‘mom’ and ‘grandma’ by more than just her biological descendants. She loved being a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother and, by the grace of God, she was able to enjoy being a daughter longer than most of us, losing her own mother just 6 years ago.
Gloria left this earthly life on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, at Prestige Care Center of Plattsmouth, and joined those who had preceded her in death: Parents, Bud and Bessie; paternal grandparents Philip Edward and Bertha Helen Hawk; maternal grandparents Jurgen Mathaus and Wilhelmina ‘Minnie’ Nissen; brothers-in-law Louis Heithoff, Lloyd Smith, Charles Bartak, and Kenneth Peters; sisters-in-law Mildred Smith, Margy Bartak, and Norma Peters; many aunts, uncles, and cousins, including Robert Nissen who had been raised alongside Gloria and Darlene; grandson Keith William Adams; and granddaughter Annika Bessie Jean Swanson.
Left to grieve her passing are her beloved husband of 59 years, Wayne; son Monti and wife Cheryl Swanson of Imperial; daughter Christine and husband Darrell O’Neal of Ogallala; daughter Lori and husband Marty Widger of Union; son John and wife Lindsay Swanson of Lincoln; grandsons Calvin and Joseph Swanson, Seth Adams, Dylan Widger, and Christian Swanson; granddaughters Dusty Swanson, Brandi Adams and fiancé Darin Schnell, Kira Widger, Rebecca and Katrina Swanson; great-grandsons Logan Swanson, Brecken Zona, Alex Swanson, Levi Swanson De La Fuente, and Kyson Schnell; great-granddaughters Topanga Swanson, Penellope Swanson, Brooklyn Zona, and Shaylee Schnell; sister Darlene Heithoff; extended family; and good neighbors and many friends and acquaintances from her time on this earth.
Gloria was loved greatly and will be missed more than she could have imagined.
Huffman-Levander Funeral Home in Elgin, Nebraska is assisting the family with arrangements and can be reached at 1-402-843-5400.
A memorial has been established and will be designated at a later time by the family.
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