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Dawn Peterson
D: 2018-11-08
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B: 1943-04-28
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D: 2018-10-30
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JoDee Martin
B: 1956-09-02
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James Sayler
B: 1927-06-03
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Ellen Swift
D: 2018-10-23
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Swift, Ellen
Marcus Eyer
B: 1991-09-27
D: 2018-10-23
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Wilma Sayler
B: 1930-01-09
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B: 1938-10-16
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Rev. Thomas Steenberg
B: 1935-08-28
D: 2018-10-20
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D: 2018-10-19
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Obituary for Ellen Isobel Swift

ELLEN ISOBEL SWIFT of Missoula, Montana died peacefully of natural causes at the age of 98 in her own home on October 23, 2018. She was born on November 8, 1919 to Henry and Isobel (Eddington) Richards of Lincoln, England. Henry Richards, Ellen’s father, died when she was five years old, most likely from the after-effects of two wounds he received as a soldier in WWI. Ellen lived until she was 25 in a large brick home at 38 Rasen Lane, Lincoln, England with her mother and 2 brothers (William Henry and George Alistair). Ellen’s mother never worked, and the family survived on a small pension and rental monies from boarders in the family home. The Richards family lived a modest but comfortable life in Lincoln. They had no refrigerator; eggs were stored in a clay pot filled with vinegar. Bread delivery via horse-drawn wagon was a daily occurrence and meat for dinner entailed a walk to the butcher shop. One of Ellen’s chores was to transport coal from the basement to each bedroom fireplace. As a girl, Ellen was identified as a carrier of diphtheria and was placed in a quarantine hospital for several months. It was thought that Ellen would not live to old age. Against gossipy neighbors and other naysayers Ellen’s mother defended Ellen’s thin physique and refusal of an early marriage. Each summer the family would evacuate their home in Lincoln for the tiny town of Ayleth, Scotland, where Ellen’s maternal grandparents lived. In Scotland, Ellen and her brothers would spend carefree days with their cousins roaming the Scottish countryside. Ellen’s constant companion was her cousin Gladys.

Ellen was very athletic as a youth, swimming every day in the summer with her friends in the icy water of the local pool and an occasional swim in the just-as-icy North Sea. She was tall and slender and served as the leader of her school net-ball team, a popular women’s sport in England akin to American basketball. In her early twenties, she won first place in her age category for the women’s running long jump at an all-city track meet. After she was married she found that she could handily outswim her husband. Later as a teacher she worked hard with her 2nd grade students preparing for the all-school spring track meet. Her students easily out-competed other classes in the relay races because Ellen had trained her students to master the baton hand-off.

Britain declared war on Nazi Germany on September 3, 1939, bringing rationing and blackout restrictions for England and for the Richards’ household. Ellen’s brothers, Bill and George, quickly joined the war effort, Bill with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corps and George as a fighter pilot and squadron leader for the Royal Air Force. Ellen remained at home with her mother, working to support the household. In 1942 the local authorities introduced weekly dances for the young people of Lincoln, a development that would prove fortuitous for Ellen’s future life.

In 1940, a young American by the name of John Swift from Missoula, Montana hitchhiked to Ontario in order to enlist with the Canadian Royal Air Force. The United States had not yet entered the war and John was anxious to see Europe and get involved in the world-shaking events of WWII. John was trained by the CRAF to be a bomber pilot and shipped out to Scotland in 1941 to prepare for bombing runs over Germany. On December 13, 1941, John and his flight crew were sight-seeing in Lincoln while awaiting their scheduled return to Scotland when they heard music. The young bomber crew joined a dance in progress at a local church hall. On the last song of the evening John asked Ellen for the dance and a wartime romance began.

The courtship of John and Ellen was interrupted in August of 1942 when John and his bomber crew were re-deployed to North Africa to fly bombing sorties in Africa, Italy and Sicily. John and Ellen would not see each other for 3 years - their only connection became their weekly correspondence. When the war ended, John was able to take leave and returned to England where John and Ellen were married on September 13, 1945. The couple spent a year in post-war Germany as members of the army of occupation. They were able to see, despite the devastation of the war, some of the great museums and cities of Europe – the real reason John Swift joined the military. It was an experience Ellen never forgot. The newly-wedded couple bonded through a common experience of the world war and a love of European culture, but by the end of 1945 mostly looked forward to a large family and a quiet life together.

The couple moved to Missoula after the war, where their first child, Isobel, was born. During a period in the Boston area, where John completed an M.S. in psychiatric social-work on the GI Bill, two more children, Cathy and John (junior) were born. The family returned to Missoula where John took a job at the Mental Health Clinic associated with the University of Montana. Another daughter, Mary Ellen was born in 1954, but died less than 1 year later in 1955. Mary Ellen’s death caused a crisis for John and Ellen – a crisis which was partially alleviated when the couple had 2 more sons, Chris and Tim. After a 4-year interlude in Miami, Florida, where John worked for a private firm as a social worker, the family returned to Missoula and purchased the family home on East Beckwith Avenue.

After 3 years in the new house, John was diagnosed with cancer and died on December 20, 1966. Ellen was left without a husband, 5 children in school, no job prospects nor marketable skills, and a total of $700 dollars in the bank. Ellen, crushed by the loss of her husband, cried every day for a year. She realized that she would need to get a job and support the family without her husband. She took her first university course in elementary education in 1968 at the age of 48. Ellen received her B.A. in Elementary Education from The University of Montana with high honors in 1971, and later finished an M.A. in Education with a specialization in reading. She taught second grade for 16 years at the following Missoula elementary schools: Lincoln, Prescott, and Mount Jumbo. Ellen loved her teaching career which provided her the independence to run her household, buy the car of which her husband would never have approved, assist her children with various needs, and travel during her later years.

At 67, Ellen retired from the Missoula County School system. It was during retirement that many of Ellen’s relatives from the U.K. came to visit. This was also the period when Ellen was able to visit England and Scotland again – which she did 9 times until her mid-80s. She visited her brothers, cousins, niece, nephew and her friends throughout England and Scotland. The ability to travel back to her homeland revived a fierce nostalgia for England, but also provided some closure to her life as an immigrant to the United States.

Preceding Ellen in death were her parents; her two brothers; a daughter Mary Ellen, and a granddaughter Christina Marie Anderson. She is survived by children Isobel Mary Bascus (Will), Catherine Margaret Anderson (Jock), John Allen Swift, Christopher Terence Swift (Donna), and Timothy Richards Swift; niece Marie Goodall (Alan) and nephew David Richards (Alison) of England; grandchildren William Robert
Bascus, Michael Edward Bascus (Caitlin), Gregory John Anderson (Hollin), James Willard Anderson, Clancy Ellen Swift, and Riley Risher Swift, and great-granddaughters Adelyn Marie Anderson and Marina Callaghan Bascus. She is also survived by close family relatives Barbara and Dennis Pitman.

Ellen had a long life, full of love, joy, challenge and tragedy. She was resilient, determined and pragmatic - personality traits which allowed her to help her family through difficulties and accomplishments. She cherished the idea of behaving honorably, doing the right thing, always casting her ballot, drinking a cup of tea every morning, and the life-long love of learning. She was an avid reader throughout her life, with a penchant for British literature. To the very end, she remained a little angry and sad at her husband for having left her so early, but there was little that could deter Ellen from living a happy and deeply fulfilling life.

The Rosary will be recited on Friday, November 16 at Garden City Funeral Home at 6:30 pm with a Vigil Service to begin at 7:00 pm. Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, October 17 at 10:30 am at St. Anthony Catholic Parish with a reception to follow. Interment will take place at St. Mary’s Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorials be made to the Poverello Center, 1110 W Broadway St, Missoula, MT 59802 or St. Anthony Catholic Parish, 217 Tremont Street, Missoula, MT 59801.

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