In Memoriam: Bernie Swenson
Bernie was born Bernhard Minet Svensson in Aarhus, Denmark, in 1920. The family immigrated to Canada and then later to Seattle. Bernie attended Queen Anne High School, where he was introduced to many of his life-long interests, skiing, hiking and sailing.
Upon graduation, he worked for Boeing in aircraft sheet metal. He then joined the Army Air Force. After completing his stint in the service, he went to work for Alaska Copper and Brass where he was shop foreman. He retired in 1981 at age 62.
While building his home on Magnolia, a landscaper neighbor introduced him to plants, which led to his life-long love of species rhododendrons. Later he built a greenhouse where he grew wild collected seed, given to him from friends such as Johannes Hedgarrd. His collection has provided yearly rewards in terms of pride and satisfaction. Some are now 30 feet high, with hundreds of blossoms. This year he won ribbons and a trophy for entrees in both the early and May rhododendron shows.
As a director of the RSF, a member of the Seattle Rhododendron Society and its study groups, Meerkerk and the Niphargum Club, he developed many great friendships.
In 1990 Bernie was diagnosed with cancer but was able to meet the physical and emotional challenges of it quite successfully. Despite aggressive chemotherapy, he maintained an outstanding quality of life, always with a great sense of humor.
If one word could describe Bernie, it would be strength. He was a tall, strong man physically, he loved life and was much loved. He had strength of conviction, as anyone who got him going on subjects of politics, unions, Texas and steam boiler certification learned. The grace and dignity he used throughout his illness, even in death, provides the ultimate testimony of his strength.