In a letter to Bishop Mary Ann and the extended Swenson family, WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca extended condolences and gave thanks for Jeff’s life.
“The WCC joins you all and the extended Swenson family in thanking God for the life and witness of Jeff Swenson and his contribution to the church and society,” reads the letter. “On behalf of the WCC, I want to express our heartfelt condolences.”
Jeffrey Joe Swenson was born 30 January 1943, to Joe and Kathleen Swenson. Known to friends and family as “Jeff,” he was the oldest of seven children raised on a dairy farm in Elma, Washington.
Jeff joined the Navy in 1965 and completed basic training in San Diego. He was deployed as part of a helicopter squadron aboard the USS Bennington Aircraft Carrier doing rescue work off the coast of Vietnam. He also sang in the blue jacket choir for church services and various events.
After being discharged from the Navy in 1967 he returned to Elma and continued at Grays Harbor Community College. It was during the summer of 1967 when he met the love of his life, Mary Ann McDonald. He says it was “love at first sight.”
Jeff and Mary Ann were married on 31 August 1968. While in Mississippi, Jeff worked for Delta Airlines.
In August 1969 they returned to Washington State where Jeff earned a fine arts degree from the University of Puget Sound in 1970.
In 1972, they moved to Claremont, California where Jeff worked for buildings and ground maintenance for the Claremont School of Theology while Mary Ann attended school.
Jeff supported and uplifted Mary Ann in ministry for her entire career. He was a trailblazer serving a nontraditional role supporting his beloved. Their ministry journey spanned decades and geography.
They enjoyed many adventures together: In the summer of 1998, they rode their tandem bike across the United States from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, covering 4,059 miles in 58 days. The trip began in Astoria, Oregon and ended in Jamestown, Virginia (the bicentennial route). Other bike adventures included Canada to Mexico, and a trip across the Rocky Mountains.
The WCC will miss his presence and smile, and extends prayers to Bishop Mary Ann, to their extended family, and many friends across the world.
A memorial to celebrate Jeff’s life and legacy will be held on 9 October at 11 a.m. at Hollywood United Methodist Church in California. The service will be livestreamed. Send condolences to the church office.