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1942 James 2023

James Raymond Swanson

June 15, 1942 — February 25, 2023

James “Jim” Raymond Swanson passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on February 25, 2023, at the age of 80, following a brave fight against Parkinson’s Disease. 

Jim was born on June 15, 1942, in Galesburg, Ill., to Janice and Raymond Swanson.  He spent his childhood there where he worked summers alongside his siblings, Larry and Judi Swanson, and his cousins on the Swanson Seed Farm and graduated from Galesburg High School in 1960.  

Following high school  he attended college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where he graduated in 1965 from the School of Business.  As a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity he held the positions of social chair and president. 

It was while at Northwestern that he met the love of his life, Pamela Conrad, on a blind date for homecoming.  Fortunately he didn’t need his backup plan that evening and the couple married on August 14, 1965, after they both graduated. 

Shortly thereafter Jim enlisted into the Navy and was a graduate of officer candidate school.  He  went on to become a pilot and during the Vietnam War flew an A-6 Intruder off of the USS Coral Sea.  He completed 135 bombing missions during the war and was honored to make the 200,000th arrested landing on the air craft carrier.  Upon his return from the war he entered the Reserves, continuing to serve in the Navy until 2002 when he retired with the rank of Captain. 

Jim started his civilian career in sales with Sears, Roebuck and Company in Chicago, Ill.  He then went on to work for Carnation Company where his career moved his family all across the country.   Pam and Jim ended up moving 22 times in their first 20 years of marriage.  Their daughter Jennifer was born in 1971 in Northfolk, Va., while their son Tom followed in 1974 while they lived in Memphis, Tenn.  Eventually Carnation took them to California, but their midwestern roots called them back home in 1985 when Jim went to work for Peninsular Diesel and the couple settled in Birmingham, Mich. He eventually started a marine parts business named JS Industries that he ran until his retirement in 2015.

Birmingham was home for 30 years where Jim was active volunteering with coaching his kids sports and activities.  Upon retiring Pam and Jim moved to Harbor Springs, Mich., a place dear to their hearts having spent time visiting every summer since they had met.  They settled in Birchwood Farms Golf & Country Club where Jim enjoyed several weekly golf groups, his lunch bunch buddies, skiing, bowling and bocce.  But his most favorite time in Harbor Springs was when he was surrounded by his family and grandchildren.  

He is remembered as a true gentlemen who always made those around him feel comfortable.  With a beaming smile and a twinkle in his eye, he was quick with a story and always filled a room with his charismatic personality.  He loved Jimmy Buffett, a good glass of scotch and Hemingway novels.  His grandchildren loved nothing more than to climb up on his knee with a glass of Squirt and listen to the stories he had to tell.  

Jim is preceded in death by his parents, Janice and Raymond Swanson; his brother, Larry Swanson; and his sister, Judi Kiefer.   He is survived by his wife, Pamela Swanson, and his children, Jennifer Mesterharm (Jim Mesterharm), Tom Swanson (Beth Swanson) and his grandchildren A.J. Mesterharm, Audrey Mesterharm, Conrad Swanson and Delphine Swanson.

A celebration of life including military honors will be held in the spring in Harbor Springs, Mich.   If inclined, donations may be made in Jim’s memory to the Michael J. Fox Foundation at to aid in the research to end Parkinson’s Disease.  

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Raymond Swanson, please visit our flower store.


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