Archive for Thursday, October 26, 2006

Who was Raymond Swanson?

October 26, 2006

In the fall of l939, Lansing Rural High School hired a new teacher and coach. Raymond W. Swanson had just graduated from the University of Kansas with a master's in education. He taught science and coached basketball and track, as well as Lansing's first six-man football team.

I was in the sixth grade in the spring of 1940, and we were training for a Leavenworth County track meet to be held at Tonganoxie. This was my first experience of running in a track meet, so I followed Mr. Swanson around the track, watching his high school athletes train. I observed a stopwatch he was using, totally fascinated, as I had never seen one before. I finally got up enough nerve to ask him to time me in the 50-yard dash. With no hesitation, he timed my run. This developed into a friendship that lasted more than 60 years. Sports and education were two of his priorities.

Our track and football field at that time was east of the intersection of Ida and Main streets. Mr. Swanson's team would come over to the Mondero well north of the track for fresh water, and many times the coach would hit Mrs. Mondero's kitchen when he smelled her fresh baked bread.

Mr. Swanson was at Lansing for two complete school terms. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Corps in 1942 and was discharged as a major at the end of the war. He then served as director of education for the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C., from 1948 until 1951. He was recalled to active duty with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and was discharged as a lieutenant colonel in 1953.

He worked in the Department of Education at Fort Riley from 1963 until his retirement in 1980. He helped consolidate three school districts in Riley County to form Riley County High School. He was born in Randolph, Kan., but lived most of his adult life in Leonardville. Ray and his wife, Phyllis, were the town historians, and each year they gave a history lesson to a high school class. He was also mayor of Leonardville for a short time. He passed away at age 86 in January 2004.

He loved Lansing as it was his first teaching job and never forgot the friendships he made here.

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