Ernest Swanson

February 6, 2014

By Contributor

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Ernest Milton “Milt” Swanson, was born March 29, 1918, in Newcastle, to Ernest and Esilda Swanson; he passed away peacefully on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, due to complications from a fall.

Milt, a lifelong resident of Newcastle, lived his entire life at the family home — a former mine company house just off Lakemont Boulevard. Frequent travelers on that road will remember the coal car in his front yard and the railroad semaphore he installed at the end of his driveway, rigged to light up and signal when anyone came down the drive.

Milt Swanson 1944

Milt Swanson

Milt attended school in Newcastle until the Newcastle kids were transported to Issaquah in the eighth grade, graduating from Issaquah High School in 1936. After high school, he spent three years in Alaska, and then spent five years in the U.S. Coast Guard and received the Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial flight as a combat aircrewman.

When he left the Coast Guard, he worked in the Newcastle mines for the B & R Coal Co. for 17 years, until the last mine closed in 1963. He then worked for more than 20 years at Boeing before retiring to enjoy life in Newcastle.

Milt was a founding member, and past president, of the Newcastle Historical Society, and for many years was one of a small group of “old-time” Newcastle folks who took care of the Newcastle Cemetery. He was thrilled as interest in the history of Newcastle grew and younger members stepped into leadership roles, but he always participated and loved sharing his knowledge about the “old days” with anyone interested.

Milt was there, rain or shine, to talk about Newcastle during the annual Newcastle Days celebration, too. He especially enjoyed working with Vicki Baima Olson and Mike Intlekofer, of the historical society, who talked with him for hours, developing a living history, and recording information about mining and life in old Newcastle that only Milt still had in his head and heart.

Milt had a “mini museum” in his back yard, where he displayed all kinds of mining artifacts from Newcastle and for several years had students from the Issaquah School District visit his museum for a tour when they studied local history. He loved having the students visit, and their thank you letters were treasures of his.

He was named the Newcastle Citizen of the Year in 1997, and in 2008 he was given the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce Diamond Award for Community Involvement by a Senior. Both awards he proudly displayed in his home.

Milt was also a lifetime member of Tyee Masonic Lodge No. 115, the Renton Elks and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Many things kept Milt young at heart — probably mostly his very inquisitive mind. He was interested in everything and everyone he met. He read voraciously until declining eyesight in his 90s made that impossible. If something had an engine, he could fix it or make it better than ever. He was a recycler long before it became common practice. After he retired, one of his loves was taking railroad speeder trips with a great group of friends; they traveled all over Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and made a very memorable trip to the Yukon as well.

He loved going to Starbucks in Newcastle and having “his usual” — a single tall latte with a shot of caramel. The baristas knew him by name and his order when he walked in the door. Susanna and Bill Stratford and their boys Liam and Declan were very special to him, as were his other neighbors, extended family and friends.

Milt lived independently in the family home until last November, when he moved two miles away into Regency Assisted Living in Newcastle. He said he was glad he was just moving from one side of Newcastle to the other.

Milt is survived by his sister Ruth Parrott, nephew Craig Parrott (Anna), nieces Karen Wick and Lorraine Morton, great-nephews Martin and Brian Wick and great-nieces Allison Thompson (Dan) and Lesley Parrott. He was preceded in death by his parents Ernest and Esilda, his sister Frances Callaghan, and brothers John Swanson and George Swanson.

Services were held Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, at Greenwood Memorial Park with burial at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Renton.

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